Today a post written by Justin Snider features a handful of great reasons why we need to be more than a little skeptical of standardized test scores.
The case against standardized testing is a good one, but for many the idea that high test scores are at best unhelpful and at worst harmful to a good education system is quite counter-intuitive.
Today I wish to draw your attention, as Justin Snider has, to a well-known (but not well-known enough) social science law called Campbell's Law. Here is an excerpt from a book by David Berliner and Sharon Nichols:
Campbell's law stipulates that "the more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it was intended to monitor. Campbell warned us of the inevitable problems associated with undue weight and emphasis on a single indicator for monitoring complex social phenomena. In effect, he warned us about the high-stakes testing program that is part and parcel of No Child Left Behind.I've come to identify Campbell's Law as high stake testing's Kryptonite. But remember that Campbell's Law is not just true for manipulative, top-down, reward and punish education policies. It is a law that rears its unavoidable head whenever you try to legislate professional behavior. In medicine, Campbell's Law plays a role in explaining why linking doctors pay to performance can leave the sickest patients without proper care, and in education, how lower performing students are being left behind by the very law that vowed not to do so.
For more on the devastating effects Campbell's Law has on education, I invite you to read David Berliner and Sharon Nichol's brilliant book Collateral Damage: How High Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools.