When state education authorities want to find out if your child knows a particular standard, they hire a group of test assessment professionals – mostly researchers and statisticians with a background in education. These test builders use chunks of the course material to fashion their questions. But the question or questions will never be able to test the depth of kids’ knowledge. It’s not meant to. Test builders design questions with one aim: to have roughly 40 to 60 percent of students answer it correctly. When they get those results, the test builders believe that the test question is a legitimate proxy for the material the kids learned.
Standardized test questions are being pulled from the lower part of the middle range of what kids should be able to do. If teachers at a school are encouraged to “teach to the test,” they can probably show you test scores that are going up, but that means they are focusing instruction in the most basic part of the material. And that is not a particularly ambitious goal for a school.
These days, standardized test scores are being used for far more than they were ever intended—schools with poor test scores are being reorganized, while teachers who can produce high test scores are being given more pay.
Colleges and universities chase US News and World Report rankings. Parents and administrators fret over SAT scores. In schools around the nation, the arts and the art of education are being sacrificed at the altar of accountability.
it is as though we believe Hansel and Gretel can be fattened by weighing them more often.
programming choices are driven by ad revenue, which is in turn driven by minute-to-minute ratings. This mindless response to data and measurement has inarguably diminished the depth, breadth and reliability of the information we receive and the quality of the programming our families enjoy.
Policies and decisions result more from response to polls than from deep conviction. In business, short-term profits obscure the long view as stock prices fluctuate wildly with every quarterly earnings report.
Standardized tests, minute-to-minute ratings, political polls, quarterly earnings reports — none of these things ever helped grow a garden. Gardens need time and tender love. And children too need time and tender love, not constant measurement. Standardized tests can’t measure the essence of a child any better than a yardstick can capture the smell of a rose. News reports that cater to the instant gratification of viewers demean the public purposes of journalism. Politicians who pander to poll numbers discard vision and compromise their convictions. And businesses that maximize short-term gains are bankrupting America’s resources and environment.
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