Is it possible that by making standardized testing too important we have made our student’s scores worse not better? Are our problems with education not unlike the problems encountered when we believe that we have a normal bell curve where none exists? Is education and standardized testing simply caught in a bad Karma as illustrated by Malcolm Gladwell in the “Art of Failure”? Is it possible that our current approach to educational evaluation is so apparently logical to all that no one recognizes that it is counterproductive and just plain wrong? Have test scores actually gotten better as emphasis on test preparation has increased or is it an example of the gamblers fallacy where we only remember the good news and forget the bad. If test scores have actually gotten better generally wouldn’t that simply iron itself out with proper and accurate test standardization? If everyone started doing test prep would it have any affect at all on student improvement or percentile rank?
I believe that what we are currently doing in the area of testing and time spent preparing for testing is a long-term exercise in futility that will not help our struggling students very much, if at all(particularly the ones who have to take the test but cannot speak and read English or have a mental disability that compromises their ability to answer in any meaningful way). While at the same time the time spent in preparation and repitition has the potential to damage or destroy our great ones.
How can it be that many children swing more than 30 percentile ranks from one year to another on the same standardized test? I have seen students pick up that much additional knowledge or skill particularly with students coming from an ELL situation but is it really possible for a student to drop from being in the 90% to being in the 50% in one year if the testing is valid. Did they actually lose that much knowledge or skill? It would seem to me that swings such as these indicate that the test is faulty, the testing system is faulty or that many children are so deeply in the hold of Maslo’s heirarchy as to be very difficult to meaningfully test in a one or two day snapshot type situation. In any case how can we continue to depend on any test to guide us that moves that far that fast without any discernible or definable cause. Most scientists would not tolerate conclusions based on such widely variable data. Unfortunately the media, politicians, our federal government and many educational professionals will.
It’s time we start trusting our teachers and local administrators again to make many of the educational decisions and judgements on when, how and what to teach our students. Yes errors will be made and districts will cheat and some knowledge will be lost but if you believe that isn’t happening now I have a bridge to sell you.
The current infatuation with standardized testing, time wasted in test preparation and one size fits all curricular mentality is not just a momentary morning fog in a low lying area it is the first wispy red clouds on the dawn horizon of a category 5 educational hurricane.