Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Field Guide To Testing Advocates

Now that we have entered testing season, it's time to track the annual explosion of testing advocates as they spread far and wide in their attempt to stem the opt out tide and support the test manufacturing industry. While testocrats and test advocates may all seem indistinguishable, they actually come in many shapes and forms. Here's your guide to identifying the particular brand of test pushers in your neighborhood.

The Tests See All. The new standardized tests can measure deep insight, critical thinking, broad understanding, blood sugar, and future happiness. It may seem that the test reports just a give a number that's just a digital letter grade, with prescriptions like "The student should read better," but if you stare at these reports very hard, you can see every drop and detail of the students' mind.

The Tests Will Reveal What Was Previously Unknowable. Teachers, parents and students would never have the slightest idea how the students were doing in school if not for the Big Standardized Test. Parents and teachers are dopes who think that spending time with the students actually gives them some special information, when of course only a test manufactured and scored by people who have never laid eyes on the students could possibly reveal what those students know or can do.

The Tests Bring Social Justice. By giving non-wealthy non-white students the same test as wealthy white students, we will erase the achievement gap, because testing teaches students to do better. Once the achievement gap is erased, poor students will attend college and from there they will all become VP's of major corporations, minimum wages will rise, systemic racism will disappear, and social justice will rule the land. None of this can happen if you don't take the test.

The Tests Force Politicians To Solve Problems. Once we have actual data showing that this poor school in a poor neighborhood gets poor test results, politicians will have no choice but to get the school the support it needs. Or they could take support away from it and give that support to some charter school that works with a few of the original students. Or they could close it. So by taking the test, your community's school definitely gets a chance to get the help it needs to face its problems, unless it just gets kicked in the teeth instead.

The Tests Will Shape Up These Lazy Kids. Kids these days are slackers and weaklings and have been protected by their mommies. Not taking the test is just more coddling; they need to suck it up and learn about the part of life that involves pointless bureaucratic tasks. These kids whine too much about everything. Not only should they go ahead and take the damn test, but we should probably punch each one in the mouth while the test is going on.

The Tests Will Root Out Those Awful Teachers. Look, the only reason there is an opt out movement is because teachers hate education and students and don't want to get caught sucking, so they have suckered hundreds of thousands of parents who are now just acting as the union's puppets. Anyone who opts out is just protecting a crappy teacher. So your kid suffers a little and wastes some of her time. It's worth it to find proof that teachers are awful and need to be fired and the union broken and all of them just put in their place.

The Tests Are Preparation for the Real World. Hey, life is all about tests. Remember that standardized test you had to take before you could start dating your current spouse? Or how at your workplace you stop working every week or two to take a standardized test that shows how well you're doing your job? Remember how your mom used to make you pass a standardized test before she would feed you, read you a bed time story, or give you a hug? Life is all about the standardized testing.

The Tests Are Just Like Doctors' Tests. When you go to the doctor's office, she gives you a test. She uses her knowledge of your history to choose from among the thousand of tests developed and tested by other trained physicians to develop a picture of exactly what issues you are facing and how to treat them. This is exactly like that, except instead of thousands of tests, there''s just one test used for everything from heart disease to knee injuries to cancer, and instead of that test having been extensively tested, it's just experimental, and instead of coming up with a treatment plan, the authorities close your doctor's office and replace it with a doctor's office filled with healthier patients. So, basically the same exact thing.

The Test Is Required By Law and Everyone Must Take It or Else and I'm Not Kidding Young Lady-- You Get Started Right Now Or I Will Turn This Car Around, and Don't Think I Won't. The law says everyone must take the test or else the school will lose all funding and the school will be shut down and locusts will rain down from the heavens, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria. How many schools have been punished for low test participation, you ask? Never you mind that. This is serious, I tell you. Serious.

The Test Is Really Important, Isn't It? I mean, it's a standardized test, so it must be legit. Surely they wouldn't put it out there unless it was legit. And if my child doesn't take it, won't that go on their permanent record?

You will find many of these species more often out in the wild during this season. Keep your eyes open and your field guide ready, though you will generally be able to find them if you just follow the sound of their outrage. 


  1. Another of your best gems. Chapeau, Peter! Right on the money!

  2. Nailed it! (as usual)

    10 different rationales for testing and after 15 years of test-based reform you might think that maybe one or two of these would prove to be valid reasons for wasting untold billions of dollars and completely transforming classroom life for the worse.

    Oh for ten is their 15 year track record of abject FAILURE, and still it continues unabated. Test-based reform now seems more like an addiction than anything else.

  3. There was an interesting article in the NYT about standardized tests and social justice. Before 2005, Broward County Florida relied on teacher recommendations and parent referrals to identify students to test into the gifted program in the public schools. In 2005 they shifted to requiring all second grade students to take a short non-verbal test with all high scorers automatically referred to take the test for the gifted program.

    When teacher and parent referrals removed, the percentage of African American students identified as gifted tripled, the percentage of Hispanic students identified as gifted tripled, and the percentage of white students identified went up by 1/4.

    1. It is a great story. It just doesn't have anything to do with the federally-mandated Big Standardized Tests. Nobody is getting identified as gifted based on their PARCC results.

    2. It does have everything to do with getting a second opinion about a student's academic progress. When tests took the place of teacher recommendations, minority academic talent was much more likely to be recognized. This might explain why parents of minority students view tests more favorably than suburban parents of white students.

    3. Which doesn't negate that the tests in question are also racist and classist, or that minority parents haven't been sold a bill of goods by manipulating their view of the value of tests. That's what corporate shills are good at—manipulating the customers.

    4. @teachingeconomist....The test may recognize more minority academic talent, but it doesn't recognize motivation by the student, family involvement or socioeconomic status(POVERTY, Language barrier). I believe there are many students that are capable of GT programs (Math and English), but if their love of learning is geared more to the "arts" then what use is cramming advanced Math and English down a kids throat? If the child is not motivated by the course work, what good will come of it in the end? GT courses require a certain degree of parental involvement but what happens if those parents have to work 4 jobs to put food on the table and the "GT student" is required to watch over siblings or work to help support the family? What about the single parent households? These are the" human factors" that teachers have knowledge of and NO test can factor into the equation the success of the "whole child". Some kids are good at math, but that doesn't mean they love it enough that they want to make it a mission.

  4. Sibley had a much easier job writing his Field Guide to Birds. He got to go outdoors in the sunshine and see beautiful displays of their habitats, behavior and plumage. You, dear Peter, must have spent much time reading the postings of trolls and the reformistas' interwebs to do this research. Thank you for such a thorough dissection!

    Christine Langhoff