Friday, June 28, 2013

The utter failure of Standardized testing

Standardized tests do have a role to play as a component of education; the problem is they have become the end all be all instead.

Anybody who hasn’t had their head under a rock for the last five years knows the tests weren’t designed to evaluate teachers, that they destroy teacher creativity, innovation and to a degree morale and that they have led to an erosion of the joy of learning for many children too. It also caused us to give up on the classes like music, art, drama as well as skill and trade programs that many of these kids looked forward and replaced them with intensive this or remedial that.

Yet for some reason the powers-that-be continue to double down on their implementation and ratchet up the high stakes. Now many children advancing to the next grade and teachers keeping their jobs are determined by just a few hours each spring. The only people who really seem to be benefiting are the high stakes testing companies, over 3 billion for Pearson last year alone.

Maybe, just maybe in a bizzaro type way all of above would be worth it if it led to academic gains but as Diane Ravitch revealed in her blog, they just haven’t worked. She wrote: There were big achievement gains from 1971-2008 for whites, blacks, and Hispanics, and big achievement gains for students at every age level tested–ages 9, 13, and 17.

From 1971-2008, in reading, black students at age 9 gained 34 points; at age 13, 25 points; at 17, 28 points.
From 1971-2008, white students at age 9 made gains of 14 points; at 13 points, 7 points; at 17, 4 points.
From 1971-2008, Hispanic students at age 9 gained 25 points; at 13, 10 points; at 17, 17 points.
However, for the past four years, from 2008-2012, the scores have been stagnant for every racial and ethnic group and for every age group with the singular exception of Hispanic 13-year-olds and female 13-year-olds.
From 2008-2012, the acme of the high-stakes testing era, there were no gains for black students at ages 9 or 13 or 17.
It’s a definition of insanity to do the same things over and over and expect a different outcome, well friends we have four years of data that says high stakes standardized tests aren’t working. Wouldn’t it be insane to continue down the same path? The era of high stakes testing should mercifully come to an end and then we should track down all the students who went though it and apologize.
 Want some light reading about the pervasive nature of high stakes tests? Click the links.