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A concerned member of the human race

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Does Testing Appeal to Our Most Basic Instincts?

Testing has become the most important measure of the value of an education.  Whether the test is an S.A.T. (the old or soon-to-be-newer version), the P.I.S.A., or CCSS-aligned, it can be "gamed."  The higher-stakes the test, the more time teachers will be forced to waste in test preparation.  If the test reflects on teachers and schools, as it does with current APPR laws, teachers will effectively be asked to teach to the test. 

Seventy percent of the students in NY state failed last year's round of CCSS tests.  Feeling pressure, Governor Cuomo said the tests will not count against students.  Oddly enough, he stands firm in his desire to count the tests against teachers and their schools.  If, in the next round 90% of students fail, knowing full well that the tests will not count against them, APPR laws will help to turn schools inside-out.  I suppose if you like "creative disruption," whether it is fair or foul, this might sit just fine with you.  I believe, however, schools are microcosms of communities and communities crave stability. 

There are no perfect tests, and even if we all agreed that a test could be the model of perfection, I would still resent teaching to it.  These tests are not used to help teachers inform their instruction. They are politically-charged weapons unleashed by educational deformers.  These tests are largely multiple-choice in nature.  These tests do not reflect the valuable life skills that better determine a child's chances of success in the future.  These tests attempt to teach us all to think alike.  In that spirit, I wondered how our ancestors ever survived without tests.


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