This blog is an archive of the Ed Reform 101 project, designed to give policy makers and the public clear, concise information about education reform. There are five posts in the series, which are also presented in the "Pages" column. Fact sheets in .pdf format will also be available soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Part 1: Testing

In the world of the corporate reformer, standardized testing drives everything.

Judging teachers, principals, schools, and students; merit pay, tenure, and layoffs; allocating money; granting charters... it all starts with standardized testing. And it's an article of faith among the corporate "reform" set that standardized tests are fair, accurate, inexpensive, and good for students.

The people who actually study this issue and work with children, however, know that nothing could be further from the truth.

There is a place for standardized testing in New Jersey, but it is inappropriate to use standardized tests in high-stakes decisions that affect teachers and students. We can't measure a child's learning or a teacher's effectiveness when we put so much emphasis on secretive tests that are flawed in their construction, administration, and grading.

Yet almost every proposal put forward by the corporate reformers relies heavily on children filling in bubbles on a sheet of paper. So let's start this series by taking apart the myths about standardized testing.

What you should know about standardized testing:
  • Standardized tests are typically imprecise, unreliable, and biased against the poor and minorities. 
  • Too much emphasis on testing makes teachers focus only on what's tested and encourages cheating. 
  • Standardized tests are expensive, but they are graded by low-skilled, low-paid workers. 
  • Student test scores are a poor way to evaluate teachers. 
and worst of all..
  • Too much standardized testing is bad for kids.

Myth: Standardized tests are very accurate measures of student learning.
The Truth: Standardized tests are incomplete and often inaccurate measures of learning.

Myth: Standardized tests aren't biased; they treat all students equally.
The Truth: Standardized tests are often biased and unfair.
  • As FairTest, a national testing research and advocacy group, points out: "The damage created by high-stakes testing compounds rather than ameliorates the huge inequities caused by poverty and continuing racism."
  • A Stanford University study shows that standardized tests unfairly reinforce stereotypes minority and female students have of their intellectual ability.

Myth: Standardized tests don't change the way teachers teach.
The Truth: Standardized tests lead to "drill-and-kill" teaching.

Myth: Standardized tests are graded by well-trained professionals.
The Truth: Tests are often graded by poorly trained and low-paid workers.

Myth: Standardized tests are inexpensive, they don't drain dollars away from classrooms, and we have a good idea of what they cost.
The truth: Standardized tests are expensive and NJ has never run a cost/benefit analysis to determine their worth.

Myth: Cheating on standardized tests is a small problem that can be contained with a few extra measures.
The Truth: Cheating on standardized tests is running rampant, and even a huge investment of money into test security won't stop it.

Myth: Standardized tests are useful even for the youngest children.
The Truth: Children under age eight should NOT take standardized tests.

Myth: Standardized tests are an excellent way to evaluate a teacher's effectiveness.
The Truth: Standardized tests are a terrible way to evaluate teachers. More on this later in this series.

For more information on standardized tests, we recommend:

1 comment:

  1. Duke
    I've commented on your recent article on Jersey Jazzman.
    I hope my comment doesn't discourage you.
    Keep on truckin'
    Walt S.