Thursday, May 17, 2012

Standardized testing is like tobacco

Paul Thomas writes some remarkable posts for the Daily Kos. In his his post The Education Games: Reform as Doublespeak, he writes about how we should frame the debate around standardized testing.
High-stakes standardized tests. The doublespeak around high-stakes standardized testing is one of the most powerful weapons used today by Duncan. The Obama administration has produced mountains of evidence that claiming to reject and decrease testing is a cloak for the inevitability of more testing and more corrosive accountability for teachers. But that debate is masking a deeper problem with confronting high-stakes standardized tests: Many educators are quick to reject the high-stakes element while adding that standardized testing is being misused. And here is where educators are failing the debate. 
The high-stakes problem is the secondary problem with standardized testing. Yes, high-stakes create inexcusable outcomes related to testing: teaching to the test, reducing all course content to what-is-tested-is-what-is-taught, reducing teacher quality to test scores, reducing student learning to test scores, and cheating. But rejecting or even calling for removing the high-stakes ignores that standardized tests are flawed themselves. Standardized tests remain primarily linked to the race, social class, and gender of students; standardized tests label and sort children overwhelmingly based on the coincidence of those children's homes. 
The standardized testing debate is the cigarette debate, not the alcohol debate. Alcohol can be consumed safely and even with health benefits; thus, the alcohol debate is about the use of alcohol, not alcohol itself. Cigarettes are another story; there is no healthy consumption of cigarettes so that debate is about the inherent danger of tobacco. 
Educators must expose the double-speak calling for less testing while increasing the testing and the stakes for students and teachers, but we must not allow that charge to trump the need to identify standardized testing as cancerous, to state clearly there is no safe level of standardized testing.

1 comment:

  1. Both alcohol and nicotine are poisons, consuming either one taxes the body, and both appear to have health benefits for at least some people for some aspects of health some of the time. Neither is "safe" physically - the only truly "safe" drug is non-smoked marijuana.

    "the need to identify standardized testing as cancerous, to state clearly there is no safe level of standardized testing."

    Hear, hear! I always liked them but now see the false ego boost of scoring very high with zero effort did not inoculate any positive habits.


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