An article, Standardized tests can send students who fail into a tailspin, from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY) features a principal arguing for testing reform. Hear! Hear! Our insanity about testing really is one our biggest obstacles in transforming education. It does my soul good to hear a principal speaking out. Some points he makes:

  • The purpose of testing should be to help students grow academically, not to coerce higher test performances through public scrutiny and humiliation. We need more authentic valid assessments. Volumes of research prove that subjective teacher assessment is a much more accurate predictor of student success than any single standardized test score.
  • Test writers construct standardized tests for the purpose of creating a wide range of scores, with roughly half scoring above average and the other half below.
  • Standardized test scores do not tell how well schools are preparing students as citizens and leaders. Characteristics such as leadership, perseverance, listening skills and compassion are far more accurate predictors of success. Standardized tests can’t measure that.
  • The emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing is creating a culture of failure among many students.
  • Students who are poor, who are from English-as-a-second language families, who have special education needs, who desire to have a vocational education or who have unique interests or learning styles, have suffered under the one-size-fits-all.

Dan Drmacich says if you agree you should voice you concerns to school district officials, state and federal representatives.

This is an area where we need to do much more. Add to the obstacles wiki any links that will help us fight this. We need to do more than just speak to school officials and state and federal reps. Let’s collect a bank of data and break out of the blogs and take back our jobs of teaching. Yes we want accountability but assessment needs to come from a variety of sources. A while back Chris Lehmann posted here and referred us to Classroom Assessment: A Brave New World by Dr. Douglas D. Christensen.

The culture of high stakes testing is toxic. It not only takes the oxygen out of the work, it also makes all the wrong things important, as if they are the right things. For example, high stakes testing treats students, teachers and data as “commodities” to be manipulated as variables in some kind of strange economy or in some perverse experiment. In addition, I believe high stakes testing freezes the current system in place treating current practice as if it is good practice and practice that should be continued even though the whole point of accountability is to improve the system where a lot of current practice does not work. High stakes testing standardizes the current schooling model assuming it can work for all students, in all settings and under all conditions and we know that it does not and we know that it cannot. High stakes testing prevents the very innovation we should be encouraging.

Dr. Christensen nails assessment down to the correct place – in our classrooms with our teachers.

Some of my previous posts on this topic: