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Alyson Klein wrote aof our national obsession with standardized testing. As Marc Tucker points out, we are likely the only country that tests every child every year. As Daniel Koretz says in the article in Education Week, human judgement should be part of any consequential decision about school quality.
More to the point, and she doesn’t mention this, our massive spending on standardized tests has brought diminishing returns. How many more years will we wait before policymakers and legislators conclude that the Testing Charade (Koretz’s term) has exhausted its value and has become a costly burden?
Because she writes as a journalist, not an expert, she includes contrary views from spokesmen for assessment corporations who make a living selling the same old tests, the more the better for the bottom line.
It’s a spring ritual: Every year in the U.S., millions of schoolchildren take annual, standardized state tests to get a sense of how well their states, districts, schools, and even teachers are helping them learn.
Another sampling of students take the National Assessment of Educational Progress—or NAEP, better known as the Nation’s Report Card. Those results, released periodically, fill in the gaps to show how students in a particular state are performing relative to their peers.
That’s how accountability and assessment have worked in the United States at least since the advent of the No Child Left Behind Act back in 2002 and continuing with its replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.
And in fact, NAEP and Advanced Placement tests are prime components of Quality Counts’s Achievement Index, which grades and ranks states in this politically fraught category.
The United States is unique among countries in subjecting students so often to standardized tests, but as testing experts note, the resulting deluge of data comes with significant trade-offs on exam quality. And despite a few innovations under ESSA, plenty of them also wonder whether the road-not-taken might have produced a more nuanced and useful, if less frequent trove of information.
Testing every student every year is a costly prospect, said Marc Tucker, the president and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, a research and policy organization in Washington. Tucker’s research has focused on the policies and practices of the countries with the best education systems.
And the expense means that the tests are often lower quality than tests used in other countries, and a poor gauge of the higher-order critical thinking skills that students need in college, the workforce, and life, he added.
We’ve made it virtually impossible to have the quality of tests that other nations that are far ahead of us are using to determine how well their own kids are doing,” Tucker said. “So what we’ve done is to deprive ourselves of tests that will enable us to measure the things that are the most important about whether or not are kids are going to be ready for what’s coming. That’s a very poor trade. A very poor trade.”
By contrast, very few of the highest-performing countries test students every year, Tucker said. And when they do test, they often use deeper assessments that include performance tasks or writing prompts, giving educators a richer understanding of what students know and are able to do.
Singapore, for example, outperforms the U.S. on international measures such as the Program for International Student Achievement, or PISA, in average reading, math, and science performance. It tests students only about three times in the course of their careers—once at the end of elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school, Tucker said.”
Someone should calculate the billions spent on standardized testing over the past 20 years, and we could then imagine how that same money might have been used to improve the conditions in schools.
But then, the standardized testing industry has lobbyists, and the children don’t.