The national conversation will now swing around to figuring out exactly how many standardized test should be given in schools. What, we will all wonder, is the correct number of standardized tests necessary for every student to experience in a year, or in an entire school career.
Here's the correct answer.
Zip. Zero. Nada.
Students need standardized tests like a fish needs a bicycle. Standardized tests are as essential to education as a mugging is essential to better financial health.
Is there a benefit to the child to be compared and ranked against the rest of the children in the country, to be part of the Great Sorting of children into winners and losers? No. Having such rankings and ratings may advance the agenda of other folks when it comes to writing policy and distributing money, but those benefits are for those folks-- not the children. The mugger may benefit from mugging me, but it does not follow that I enjoy a benefit.
Are there standardized tests from which a classroom teacher can glean useful information? Sure-- but those tests are best chosen to fit the needs and concerns of one particular teacher and one particular collection of students. A diagnostic test might help me with Chris, but there's no reason to believe it would help me better understand Chris if it were given to every other student at the same time.
Do the poor children of some non-white non-wealthy
neighborhood need to take the Big Standardized Test just like the rich
white kids so that we have equity? Maybe-- but you know how else we
could even that out? We could have all the public school kids do what
the very wealthy private school students do-- take no BS Test at all.
That would also provide equity.
Can I squeeze some useful information out of some standardized tests? Sure. I can grow and learn important lessons from being mugged, but that doesn't mean that getting mugged is still great and worthwhile. Do not tell me what I can learn from student standardized test results-- tell me what I can learn from those results that I cannot learn in faster, better, clearer, easier, cheaper ways on my own. Getting mugged might teach me not to take a lot of money with me when I leave the house, but are you sure I couldn't learn that lesson without getting punched in the face?
Do we need tests so that teachers, parents and students know "how the student is doing"? Only if the teacher, parents and students are clueless. Parents and teachers who are paying attention and doing their jobs know how the children are doing (and those who don't care still won't care when you wave a test score at them). And the students should be learning one of the most important lessons and skills of an educated person-- how to evaluate and assess yourself, so that you can be a self-directed, self-actuated human being, answerable to your own judgment, goals and assessment. You cannot learn that from a standardized test.
If you want me to inflict a Big Standardized Test on every single one of my students, you need to be able to answer one question:
What will I be able to do to further my students' education that I could not possibly accomplish any other way? If your BS Tests were denied access to my classroom, what benefits would my students be cheated of? If the universal one-size-fits-all BS Tests were banned today, what would my students be missing from their education tomorrow?
Nothing. The number of necessary standardized tests is zero.