We've known for decades that standardized tests measure family income more than student achievement, yet we have continued to rely on test scores to label students, teachers, and schools as "failures" instead of attacking the real barriers to achievement -- inequity and poverty.
- It's convenient to pick a number...a statistic...and claim that it answers an important social question. Tests give quick numbers.
- Testing companies play up how easy it is to evaluate students, teachers, and schools using their tests (not to mention the kickbacks to legislators).
- Legislators (with kickbacks in hand) can use test scores as quick and easy soundbites to denigrate public schools and help with passing privatization legislation.
- Just like in other areas of education, we don't know what else to do, but we have to do something so we do what doesn't work.
Think about the levels of lead in the blood of the children of Flint, East Chicago, and elsewhere (and here).
How is an A-F grading system going to help them in their increased need for special services?
How are high-stakes tests going to help those students?
When are policy-makers going to be held accountable for their part in the achievement level of students?
Instead of accountability we get more tests. Indiana's testing will continue to rob students of valuable instructional time and punish teachers who teach students who score low, and students who had the bad luck of growing up poor.
William Mathis: What Standardized Tests Measure and What They Can’t Tell Us
Here is yet another piece of research showing that tests measure SES, not schools.
A Stanford professor compared all the school districts in the nation using six different measures of socio-economic well-being and found that a stunning 70% of test scores could be predicted by these six factors. When the PARCC tests, which are used to test “college and career readiness” were compared with freshman grade point average, the tests only predicted between one and 16% of the GPA. What this means is that the tests do a better job of measuring socio-economic status than measuring schools. This pattern has been solidly and consistently confirmed by a mountain of research since the famous Coleman report in 1966. It pointed to family and social problems rather than schools.”
Pressuring schools to raise test scores got diminishing returns, new study of No Child Left Behind finds
In the "this is no surprise to anyone" category, Chalkbeat reports that No Child Left Behind's focus on tests really didn't have much of an impact on actual student achievement. In other words, the obsessive focus on testing, the misuse and overuse of testing, the punishment of students and schools dealing with high levels of poverty, and the billions of dollars transferred from cash-strapped public schools to testing corporations, didn't -- and doesn't -- help anyone.
Keep in mind that throughout this article, with phrases such as low-performing, struggling schools, and levels of performance, Chalkbeat assumes that the only measures of student and school performance are standardized tests.
“Districts may have understood it was a nudge and a wink and it didn’t really have teeth,” he said of the law.As Linda Darling-Hammond said in Rise Above the Mark, "We're using the wrong kinds of tests...we're using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways."
No Child Left Behind’s replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act, takes a different tack. Instead of giving each state discretion in how many schools are identified as failing and requiring them to ramp up the consequences over time, the law requires each state to identify 5 percent of schools as low-performing.
The latest study suggests that might be a preferable approach if states are able to figure out better ways to help a small group of struggling schools improve. Turnaround efforts — including a prominent federal program backed by a lot of money — have often produced disappointing results.