Unhealthy Focus on Standardized Tests?

So the President has $5 billion he wants to give away to schools (from that stimulus bucket o’ money). It would appear, to his credit, that he is interested in charter schools and in doing things like tying pay to performance. In this area, he is set in opposition to the teacher’s unions. The most telling example of this is the NEA:

“Despite growing evidence to the contrary, it appears the administration has decided that charter schools are the only answer to what ails America’s public schools,” the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union, said in comments submitted to the Education Department.

The NEA added: “We should not continue the unhealthy focus on standardized tests as the primary evidence of student success.”

At the state level, unions have made deals with lawmakers on test scores. In Wisconsin, the state teachers’ union agreed that test scores could be used to evaluate teachers—as long as they couldn’t be used to fire or discipline teachers.

What should we use for the evidence of student success, then? Is not the point of success (when it comes to education) to be able to demonstrate that one has indeed learned the material which was taught, and then go on to demonstrate the outworking of that education in the workforce? How does one measure something without measuring it?

Then there is that telling piece about Wisconson. Use scores to evaluate teachers but one can’t do anything with the completed evaluations except sit on them. Excuse me if I think that is like telling my son he can’t have my mobile phone and then doing nothing when he walks away with it. He’s not quite 2, but he gets it. Don’t you think the teachers are at least that smart?

Now, with all of this, please understand that I am in no way condoning Mr. Obama’s giveaway to the schools via this “Race to the Top” program. That money is borrowed from the future earnings of the very children who are supposed to be helped by this –and that debt may do as much damage as any good to come out of this.

One thought on “Unhealthy Focus on Standardized Tests?

  1. I’m afraid this will tempt even more teachers to try to “teach to the test” so that scores will be good. High test scores benefit nobody if students memorize material without comprehending it. Too often high scores are seen as education’s goal.

    Standardized tests give a temperature reading, but more factors are involved in determining academic health than just what a thermometer says. Is the student prepared to continue learning on his own throughout life? If yes, I think you can say his education was a success.

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