Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Testing and learning have little relationship to each other

Can we just drop all pretense that testing is about learning?

 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) gave us annual testing of students in the primary academic areas.  In the beginning test scores were awful.  Then each year they got better.  Everyone denied there was any teaching to the test.  Then came the Common Core.  About 20 states signed on for PARCC testing supposedly to measure progress on the Common Core.  That number is now down to seven states. Scores on the PARCC tests are terrible.  Parents are upset.  States are dropping out or rethinking just how much time should be spent not only on the testing itself but on preparing for the testing.  We are continually told that teachers are NOT teaching to the test.  Believe that and I’ve got a couple of bridges you might be interested in buying.
New York state allows families to opt out of the testing process.  In New York 20% of families have so far effectively said “not with my kid”.   New York has taken another step ostensibly to give teachers a chance to review information that will be on the test.  New York has released 75% of the multiple-choice items for its common-core aligned math and English/language arts tests.  In previous years the department of education has released 50% of the questions and done so during the summer.  This year the questions were released earlier.  In addition to publishing 75% of the multiple-choice questions, New York is now also releasing ALL of the items that require a written response.  It is also allowing parents to review their children’s test booklets.
In a letter to the public, the Commissioner of Education said the purpose of releasing the information was to allow teachers to make informed decisions about curriculum and plan for the upcoming year.  Why would anyone EVER possibly think that this release has anything at all to do with teaching to the test?  The Commissioner also said it was the department’s plan to increase the number of questions released in future years.

When are we going to be done with this charade?  Testing has little to nothing to do with learning.  In fact, much of what we test is not learning at all but memorization.  The real tasks of education, teaching problem solving, working in a multi-cultural diverse environment, and developing job skills can’t be tested with computer or paper and pencil at all.  The entire testing process is a game to play “gotcha” with our teachers.  We need to find the courage to get rid of the poor teachers, support the ones who are doing the job appropriately and provide an education for our kids that will serve them after they leave school.  Stop pretending testing has anything to do with that.

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