Too Much Testing In Schools: This Is a Feature, Not a Bug

If education ‘reform’ collapses, the greatest mistake reformers will have made was to inflict their ideas on children who are not poor minorities (boldface mine):

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida embraced the school accountability movement early and enthusiastically, but that was hard to remember at a parent meeting in a high school auditorium here not long ago.

Parents railed at a system that they said was overrun by new tests coming from all levels — district, state and federal. Some wept as they described teenagers who take Xanax to cope with test stress, children who refuse to go to school and teachers who retire rather than promote a culture that seems to value testing over learning….

Where once these frustrations were voiced in murmurs, this year not only parents but also educators across Florida are rebelling. They have joined a national protest in which states have repealed their graduation test requirements, postponed the consequences of testing for the Common Core — national standards in more than 40 states — and rolled back the number of required exams….

In Florida, which tests students more frequently than most other states, many schools this year will dedicate on average 60 to 80 days out of the 180-day school year to standardized testing. In a few districts, tests were scheduled to be given every day to at least some students….

The concerns reach well beyond first-year jitters over Florida’s version of Common Core, which is making standards tougher and tests harder. Frustrations also center on the increase this year in the number of tests ordered by the state to fulfill federal grant obligations on teacher evaluations and by districts to keep pace with the new standards. The state mandate that students use computers for standardized tests has made the situation worse because computers are scarce and easily crash….

The state ordered all students, including those in elementary school, to take standardized tests on computers as of this year. But again, the state did not give districts extra money for computers or technology help.

Because schools do not have computers for every student, tests are staggered throughout the day, which translates to more hours spent administering tests and less time teaching. Students who are not taking tests often occupy their time watching movies. The staggered test times also mean computer labs are not available for other students.

Parents who are desperate to provide a good education will latch onto anything, but outside of poor urban and rural areas, most school systems have something to lose–all (or even just most) change is not necessarily an improvement.

Of course, this assumes that the primary goal of all of this testing is to improve education. It’s not: in the case of computer labs, educational resources are being used for testing, not for teaching kids how to code or for other educational purposes–that is, learning.

The real goal is described in this one clause tucked away in a long sentence:

Frustrations also center on the increase this year in the number of tests ordered by the state to fulfill federal grant obligations on teacher evaluations

The fundamental educational philosophy (such as it is) is that improvements in education–which mean and exclusively mean increases in test scores–will only happen when teachers are managed ‘better’. The notion that classroom resources, the health and welfare of the child outside of the classroom, curriculum* and pedagogy, and absenteeism are factors, which greatly outweigh teacher quality, does not enter into their worldview (we’ll just elide past the graft that goes on from making money by building charter schools to locking in book sales).

Reformers have been able to get away with this when their policies mostly affected low-income minorities. When the article claims “Florida embraced the school accountability movement early and enthusiastically”, I’m guessing many parents never thought these policies would be applied to their schools, but only those schools. Oops.

White middle class and upper-middle class people typically have well-performing or even high performing schools. So instituting policies that make their kids miserable and which are not what they perceive an education to be about go over like a lead balloon. Worse for the reformers, these parents can actually do something about this.

Education reform does solve a problem, the supposed problem of teachers unions. But all those other problems listed above, well, not so much. Increasingly, I think parents in decent (or excellent) school systems are starting to realize that the cure of education reform is worse than the supposed disease.

Hopefully, it’s not too late.

*Reformers are pushing the Common Core, which is a de facto curriculum. Nothing wrong with that per se, but it’s an extremely crappy curriculum.

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2 Responses to Too Much Testing In Schools: This Is a Feature, Not a Bug

  1. Good gravy is this crazy.
    They may as well just circulate the kids through the limited computers to fill out marketing surveys to sell… because that’s about the same end result from all that continuous testing. It’s gotta be kickbacks, somebody’s making money on those tests, and the computer software to run the tests.

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