Home > Uncategorized > Will Testing Regimen Change in 2015?

Will Testing Regimen Change in 2015?

January 7, 2015

Several political forecasters believe that the incoming congress will at long last revisit and revise NCLB as part of the overdue reauthorization of ESEA and as part of that process the annual tests that are part of NCLB will be modified in some way. The reasons for moving away from those annual tests are varied. Teachers unions oppose the way the tests are being used for student promotion and teacher retention decisions. Parents oppose them because they create undue stress in their children and deprive them of broad curricular opportunities. Rank-and-file teachers oppose them because of the lost time for classroom instruction. So… who wants them and why?

The answer is that politicians and taxpayers want some kind of “accountability” and standardized tests provide a cheap, easy, and seemingly precise means of  evaluating the effectiveness of instruction.  As a by-product, tests also provide newspapers with a  cheap, easy, and seemingly precise way of rating and ranking schools. Finally, the tests also provide those favoring “market-based” schools with evidence that public schools are “failing” and provide data that “parent-consumers” might use to “choose” the best school for their child if only those parents received vouchers that could be redeemed at the schoolhouse door.

A recent Politico article by Caitlin Emma described the background offered in the first paragraph but avoided delving into the rationales for testing outlined in the second paragraph. Moreover, I felt Emma was too generous in giving credit to state legislatures and Governors who are pledging to limit the hours of testing each year. She misses the point that HOW the tests are used is far more important than HOW MANY HOURS the tests take.

For example, if Ohio passed a law insisting that only four hours of standardized testing be done each year but retained its policy of using test results to measure teacher performance, school effectiveness, and student retentions, nothing would change in he classrooms. In order to prepare students for the four hours of annual high stakes tests administrators and teachers will spend hours preparing for those tests and many of those hours will involve administering tests that mirror the format used in the annual standardized assessments.

Emma’s article offers an example of one politician who wants to find an even cheaper, easier and less effective means of measuring school and teacher performance while limiting the hours of testing. CT Governor Malloy wants to use the SAT for 11th graders in lieu of the current tests because “…the SAT can double as a test for school accountability and college entrance.” Given that Malloy is a proponent of VAM it follows that he would believe the SAT is a viable means of testing “school accountability”… and if he DOES pull this off I would expect the number of multiple choice tests to proliferate in grades 9-11 in CT schools.

The bottom line: changing the number of standardized tests and the length of classroom time spent on those tests will not make any difference in the classroom unless the stakes are changed dramatically…. and there is no evidence that any politician wants to make changes in the stakes.

%d bloggers like this: