Testing Is Questioned
Here we go again … education reform. As a retired 30-year veteran teacher with a masters degree in education, it is hard to believe that education is being tweaked again. Much of the tweaking is being done by legislators and educators who have not been in a public school setting for years and/or decades.
One of the biggest issues of contention that I have with those who dictate educational policy is basing money, aid, teacher performance, etc. on test scores. I would like to cite an example of the validity of test scores.
While teaching, I was proctoring the Westest (now outdated) at one of the pilot schools. The proctors were told to record any problems or discrepancies while the students were taking the test. I had a student who opened the test booklet and randomly filled in the bubble sheet provided, put his head down, and closed his eyes. I reported this discrepancy to the test administrator. He said that one of two things could be done. The student’s test could be thrown out and a zero recorded or to submit the student’s answers and hope that he did a good job at randomly selecting the correct answers. This is valid?
Much money and time is spent on test scores. As the old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” If a student, parent or guardian does not see any importance in taking a standardized test, how can it be valid?
Also, a school must test 95 percent of their student population. This would include special education students who have not received instruction on some of the advanced information on a standardized test. How could this result in a valid summary of a school, county or state’s student performance? Do those in government and educational reform honestly believe that all countries in the world test the way we do in the United States? Most do not include their special population or students who are learning a vocational trade.
Let’s get our heads out of the sand. If a standardized test is so important, then attach a requirement to it that will be effective. This could be in the form of a graduation requirement, promotion into the next grade, state tax incentives for parents/guardians, stipends for parents/guardians, etc. The parents/guardians need to place more value on their child’s education.
Schools have gone from not only being a teaching and learning institution, to also providing students with free breakfast, lunch, summer lunch programs and food to take home on weekends. Schools now have washers and dryers to clean students’ clothes. Schools have clothes closets to provide students with additional clothing. Communities provide free school supplies at the beginning of the school year. Schools now have nurses and health suites for children who are ill. It seems as though the teacher and school system are being asked to do more and take more responsibility than the parent/guardian.
I realize that students need to have a goal or benchmark for grade level achievement, but should this be in the form of standardized testing? Should schools, teachers, etc. have to worry about the punitive actions due to student, parent or guardian apathy towards the importance of educational performance? I feel that those enacting the standards should also be required to take the same tests and have their job depend on the test results.