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The test is being tested

April 24th, 2013 by Steven Gardner

This weekend I should have a story about two students who have achieved a lot, but the award they are up for they first became candidates for because of how well they did on the ACT and SAT tests. Those two tests have been around forever. (By “forever” I mean longer than I have been a student.) Students now, and this is not news to any parent or educator, spend so much more of their year taking tests than their parents did, that the cry that testing is counterproductive is getting louder.

Consider the piece written by Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon. Among the many cases she makes is that testing might not only be hurting overall education efforts, it might even be designed to do just that.

And it’s a system that, as Core Standards are being implemented around the country, seems built to fail. “All the passing ratings are going to go down about 30 percent this year; that’s what they’re predicting,” says author, advocate and education historian Diane Ravitch. “The dark view is that they want everybody to fail and they want people to say the public schools stink, so they can push for more vouchers and more charters. I can’t describe what’s going on without thinking that we’re in the process of destroying American public education.”

ckteacherevalOn Wednesday at the Central Kitsap School District meeting there was a presentation on the state’s method for teacher evaluation, which will be implemented in 2014. As you can see from the slide on the right, testing will at least be part of what helps measure educators.

Then again, we all know parents use school and district test scores to drive real estate values up or down in an area. Parents try to move to areas where test scores are better. They aren’t a guarantee every child will succeed, but what parent doesn’t hope that peer pressure will influence their children to study harder?

Williams’ suggested solution is to go more local.

Absolutely, there are broken schools and faulty teachers who are failing our children every day. But building a better system of public education – an education to which every child in this country is entitled — takes creative and innovative approaches, tailored to individual communities.

How local? would seem to be the important question. While testing, the editorial asserts, hasn’t closed any learning gaps, how can a state know how well each district is doing if it can’t measure one against another? What are your ideas?

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