Home > Uncategorized > John Merrow’s Idea to Rid Schools of Standardized Tests is Compelling and Saves Millions of Dollars!

John Merrow’s Idea to Rid Schools of Standardized Tests is Compelling and Saves Millions of Dollars!

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday that was click-bait. It was titled “If you could could make one change…“, the titled derived from a question John Merrow asked some dinner guests, which was this:

If YOU had the power to make ONE major change in American public education immediately, what would you choose to do?”

In Mr. Merrow’s post that posed this question his dinner guest gave responses like doubling spending on public schools, making spending more equitable, expanding early childhood programs, and a commitment to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And what was Mr. Merrow’s response?

At that point everyone turned to me, and, even though I am much more comfortable asking questions than answering them, I plunged ahead. “I would eliminate standardized testing.”

Everyone seemed shocked.  Including me.  Never before had I expressed that thought. To the contrary, like most critics of testing, I have always argued for ‘multiple measures’ that included–but minimized the importance of–standardized, machine-scored ‘bubble’ tests.

“Get rid of them completely,” one asked?  “Yes,” I said, “because about 75% of what they do is destructive: dumbing down the curriculum, making school a pressure-cooker, equating a person’s worth with his or her scores, falsely evaluating teacher quality based on a single number, and so on.”

I continued.  “Maybe about 25% of what they do is worth-while, but, if we got rid of them completely, we would be forced to develop alternative ways of assessing learning, and we could come up with approaches that weren’t inherently destructive.”

John Merrow got this one right… if testing remains in place as it is now any new resources no matter how they are distributed will be spent preparing kids to pass them. The standardized tests we administer to children today insidiously create the comparison of children within an age cohort. This, in turn, leads to developmentally inappropriate instruction for many children and needless competition among students and schools to “succeed” on test-taking. Worse yet it reinforces the notion that schools are designed to sort and select students.

And here’s the best thing about Mr. Merrow’s idea: unlike the ideas of his dinner friends it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime! Indeed…. it would SAVE millions of dollars!

So why aren’t we all jumping on board? Two possibilities: maybe our politicians are among those who are on the receiving end of the money going to “…the big bureaucracies that want more control over classrooms and the big corporations that provide the tests” OR maybe most voters, parents, and teachers cannot envision a system that doesn’t group children based on age and test them accordingly.

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