Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing

As he so often does, Mike at EIA distills a difficult and often emotion-laden topic to its core:
I’ll begin with an admission: standardized tests are overused, and misused, in our public schools. Test critics are correct to note the limitations of such tests, and they are right to be suspicious of efforts to apply them to evaluations for which they were never intended.

That being said, the prominence of standardized testing didn’t spring into being out of nothingness. There is a reason people have taken hold of an imperfect measure of school quality and run with it. And the Save Our Schools March itself helped illustrate why...

Cody said the event “accomplished some important things.” He thought ”everyone who participated felt a great sense of energy and power as a result of taking a positive action” and “made a real mark on the consciousness of the education community.” Strauss also asked about the low turnout.

Not to belabor the obvious, but what Singer, Strauss, Cody and others are doing in the wake of the march is evaluating its quality. Popular measures include turnout, media coverage, demonstrated enthusiasm of the crowd, and comparing results to previously stated goals.

In other words, there was a desire to find an empirical standard by which to measure the success or failure of the march...

The self-evaluation by Cody is similar to what we hear about public school performance all the time from people employed by the system...

Calling a school successful because of high reading and math scores on a standardized test may be a flawed method of evaluation. But is it any more flawed than calling a school successful “because we say so?”

I play Devil's Advocate all the time with teachers--actually I don't, because I actually support the idea behind standardized testing. When discussing the issue I always remind my fellow teachers that tests came about because of public pressure through the legislature; the public lost confidence in what we were doing. The news and talk-show hosts didn't create this wagon, they just jumped aboard.

Mike is right: tests are often misused (and that needs to stop), and we do have to have some objective measure of how students, teachers, and schools are performing. Both sides--administrators who claim only to want to "help" teachers by using tests for evaluation, and teachers who "just want to teach"--need to understand that "trust me" isn't going to work anymore. Trust is earned, not merely given.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Cody / Strauss crowd is arguing to abolish standardize tests. They're arguing that how the tests have been used (i.e. to rank teachers) is dangerous given the fact that the tests are not designed to do that. I think they would also agree that strengthening requirements to enter the profession on the front end is good practice, rather than opening the floodgates to any idiot and then trying to figure out which ones can actually cut it.