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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Over testing is slowly killing education

By Greg Sampson

Bells have rung, doors have opened, and bodies clad in new uniforms (polos and khakis) have slid into seats as shrugged-off backpacks lie on the floor. Another school year has begun. Students are quiet and attentive. Teachers wonder how long that will last. New lessons, new books. There is nothing like opening day excitement.

Across America, children are sharpening their pencils, and that can mean only one thing: TESTING! For the next three weeks, teachers will twist their lessons around the many beginning of the year tests that spread through the grade levels like an Ebola virus. Lest you think I exaggerate, know that we now test kindergartners with as many as seven standardized tests.

But you protest, tests are to see what children have learned. Why test them before they have learned anything?

Experts will tell you we have to measure learning and until we test them, we don’t know that they don’t know. You see, unless we give a 6-year old student a math test full of word problems, we won’t know that they don’t know.

But you protest, if students get the answers wrong, how do you know that it was the math and not the fact that they haven’t learned how to read?

Experts will tell you that testing is necessary to measure teacher performance, school quality, and educational improvement in general.

You protest, who are the experts? Read this blog. They are the many persons with the policy prescriptions to offer alternatives under the label “Choice.” And, if you really want to have some fun, suggest that their choices should undergo the same testing. They come unglued.

A savvy Hollywood producer should develop a series of horror movies like Friday the 13th or Halloween around the concept of school testing. It would be a blockbuster series.

Above I compared testing to the Ebola virus, but it really is more like a cancer. Ebola is swift; people die or recover in a few weeks. Testing is slowly killing education. Like a cancer, it eats away at the healthy parts of education. There is a tremendous amount of issues involved with testing, but the biggest one is that the scores are manipulated by state agencies that decide what constitutes a passing or proficient performance.

      These scoring levels are not constant. State agencies change them from year to year to match—what? In Florida, basically the Department of Education manipulates these “cut scores” to get the result they want. They play around with the school grading formula as well.

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