Many folks fear that schools will not trot out the Big Standardized Tests this spring, that neither the pony nor the dog will be called on to perform. Among those people, you can count Chester E. Finn, Jr., Big Boss Emeritus of the Fordham Institution and former player in the U.S. ed department; nowadays he serves the Hoover Institution (ever a source of reliable and not-at-all misleading info) as a senior fellow.
Finn popped up in the Washington Post this week to make his case that we just really so much need the BS Tests this year. I remain unconvinced. In all fairness, as regular readers know, I'm not convinced that we need them ever, but especially not this year. But let's hear Finn out.
He notes that this will be one of the first calls the Biden administration will have to make (though hours after Finn's argument went live, Betsy DeVos called to postpone the NAEP aka "the nation's report card" for a year). Finn also admits that cancelling last year's BS Tests made sense, but only because students weren't in school so they couldn't take the tests.But don’t think for a moment that such diversions of the student data stream are without cost. The results from those state assessments are the main source of information about school performance and about pupil learning in the core subjects of the K-12 curriculum. The results also indicate whether America’s appalling — and persistent — achievement gaps are getting any narrower.
The information from the tests is used at every level of the system. It enables parents to see how their children are faring on an “external” metric, beyond the grades conferred by their teachers, and it helps principals assess how their schools are doing. The results also equip superintendents to gauge what must be done to boost district-wide achievement, and they furnish state officials with the information needed to guide their assistance and interventions.
How will parents and teachers know which students need the most catch-up in which subjects? Who has the greatest need for summer school or tutoring? And how will district and state leaders know which schools coped better and worse?