Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Standards Don't Require Standardized Testing

While reading an article on LinkedIn the other day, I was taken aback by the author's acceptance that standardized tests follow naturally from standards, and that teachers should accept that reality and quit complaining.

The author stated,  "As teaching methods and content changed through the centuries, along with the number and type of students, so too the assessment methods have also had to change. From the informal testing of Socrates, to more formal testing such spelling and math tests as called for by Horace Mann, to the creation of what we know today as the College Board in 1900, the creation of more in-depth standardized testing seemed almost inevitable. " 

I take umbrage with that thought that standards can only be measured by standardized tests and are the great, modern way to assess learning, especially the annual high-stakes testing perpetrated by Bush's NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and Obama's RttT (Race to the Top).

National Standards have been in place long before 1994. I am very familiar with the Math Standards from the 1980s when I began 20 years of remedial math teaching. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)had wonderful standards way back then and offered alternate assessments and instruction for students who needed it. The most important difference between the NCTM standards and the Common Core (CCSS) standards is that TEACHERS wrote the NCTM standards, piloted them and revised them as needed. The Common Core standards were very short on input from teachers, relying mainly on non-educators to write them. In fact, not even ONE early childhood educator was involved in the K-3 standards as evidenced by the inappropriate developmental demands of the CCSS. In addition, the states can only revise 15% of the standards. And it's a laugh calling them the Common Core STATE Standards because the only thing the states did was rubber stamp them even before they were fully written.

With the emphasis on differentiation and the prominent place it occupies in the various teacher evaluation rubrics, it is curious how a standardized test can be the be-all and end-all of testing. Standardized tests cannot measure how persevering a child is when solving a problem, how creative they are in thinking of alternate solutions, how compassionate they are to fellow students, how joyful they are when reading a good book, how the finally got enough self-esteem to participate by raising their hand and giving their opinion, How well they are able to connect math and science, etc. They only measure one small aspect of what a child learns. Standardized tests are good only for that part of the population who are good at that form of testing. Differentiated learning requires differentiated assessment, like presentations, discussion, power points, writing a book, play, letter or newscast, explaining to a peer, drawing and art work, singing or acting out, building something, etc. The current tests do not cater to any of the strengths of children who may learn differently than just reading and writing, and today's teachers are required to use what is appropriate for the children in their class, using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic strategies like the above to differentiate instruction in the classroom.

 Another problem with the current trends, is that standardized tests results are currently being used to evaluate teachers, despite the American Statistical Association insisting that the test can only be used to measure information on students, not teachers. In addition, the Value Added Metric, which is used to make the standardized testing results “equitable” has been also debunked by the same statistical organization. It’s is junk science. Indeed, the Department of Education is even extending the test results to evaluate the teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities. If you can't statistically extend the results to teachers, then extending them even further would make the junk science junkier.

 But the fact that standardized testing follows along 'naturally' from the Common Core is really not far fetched at all considering the fact that David Coleman recruited standardized test makers. David Coleman is NOT an educator but a businessman, as are many of the standards writers for the CCSS. In fact, he is inextricably linked to the College Board as he is its president.  Coleman wrote the ELA standards and will profit from them, not only for K-12 but beyond. Even more curious, David Coleman is intimately connected to Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization, which promotes VAM, using standardized tests to evaluate teachers, and privatizing public schools. He only has to profit from the Common Core Standards and the subsequent tests, which will be used to close public schools and fire good teachers.

 So no, standardized testing does not have to be accepted without protests by teachers, students and parents. Life-altering decisions should not be based on the results from a test given on 10 days out of 180. the 40 days of high school testing account for only 5% of the time the students are in school. How can you place so much emphasis and the treat of not graduating on 5% and ignore 95% of the work the student has done in school? One test should not be the only thing graduation requirements should look at, day-to-day performance and portfolio work will give a better indicator of high school learning. There is nothing good in using high-stakes standardized testing for schools, students, or teachers - only for the corporations who are profiting from them.

Still learning!

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