Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Scrap The Big Standardized Test!

Education writers have been saying it for a week. I said it.

There are plenty of reasons to question the high stakes use of these tests in any year, but one thing is clear—this year, they will produce no useful data.

Peter DeWitt said it.

Given all of the stressors that students, teachers, staff and leaders are under right now, and given the fact that there is still so much we do not know about Covid-19, might education departments, like NY State's Education Department, take this one step further and cancel the assessments all together for just one year? Schools have enough to worry about, and high stakes testing should not be on their plate of concerns. 

Steven Singer said it.

This is at least a month of wasted schooling. If we got rid of all the pretests and administrator required teaching-to-the-test, we could clear up a good 9-weeks of extra class time.

Education leaders in states across the country are saying it. Here's Michigan state superintendent Michael Rice:

In many cases, children will have experienced trauma. In other cases, they will simply need to be reacclimated into their schools. In all cases, students will have missed instruction, and this lost instruction will render any conclusions about test results dubious, especially any comparisons across school years and in light of the pending public health concerns of parents, students, and staff. 

And here's Rick Hess, ordinarily a supporter of accountability systems, writing an open letter to Betsy DeVos:

It's time to scratch federally mandated state testing for 2020. All of it. All of the reading, math, and science testing mandated by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Scratch it. Period.

The data's value is usually that its broadly consistent and comparable. Well, the 2020 data won't be. No one should want states or districts plugging erratic, dubious data into accountability systems or public report cards. If that creates headaches for scorecards, accountability systems, or researchers, so be it.

Massachusetts folks have a petition. And, of course, some states have already grokked the writing on the wall and lowered the boom on the test.

This will make the worst applesauce
If, like me, you're not a fan of the Big Standardized Test, this year's can only be seen as gumming up the works even worse. But if you are a fan of data collection via testing, then you also have to hate the prospect of an entire year's worth of what is, at worst, bad data and is, at best, data that will require folks to compare apples to one big ugly watermelon. This data will not be usable to measure growth; it will not be comparable to any other year, and it will be impossible to suss out how the huge coronavirus variable factors into the results. This year's data would be literally meaningless.

Giving the test this year serves nobody's interest (beyond, of course, the test manufacturers who sell the damned things). It is a huge waste of time and money during a year in which both are being sucked away by a national health crisis.

I hear that some states are working on it, that some groups are back there trying to sell the idea. Jump on in and make the case. Send a note to your legislators, your department of education, anyone who could help.

Incidentally, this goes double for all those states that require their third graders to pass a standardized reading test in order to move to fourth grade. That test should also be scrapped, scratched, booted, abandoned and otherwise ejected from this year's game plan. That is way too much to load onto eight year olds.

There is too much hanging over the heads of students, teachers, and parents. This is one concern that can be easily set aside, and the folks in charge should do so ASAP.


  1. Michael Rice (MI) re coronavirus:
    "In many cases, children will have experienced trauma."

    Clearly he hasn't spent much time in Forest Park, Chaldean Town,
    Poletown East, Milwaukee Junction, Petosky-Otsego, Gold Coast, or
    Herman Gardens. Among other neighborhoods.

    1. Those are neighborhoods in the poorest sections of Detroit.

  2. I think we will need every minute when and if we return to school, so the tests would waste more precious time than they do on a normal year. Interestingly though the results might reveal what most of us already know, that the tests measure income, parental education level, and socio-economic class. Homes that have the resources to learn will produce similar grades as in the past, while homes that do not have the resources will produce even worse scores on tests that measure opportunity. Again we shouldn’t require the test, but the results could be the nail in the coffin for the future of the tests...thoughts?