And does it matter? At HoneyFern, we give a standardized test at the end of the school year as part of our accreditation. We will take the math and English portions only, and our work is in no way geared to this test; I am not quite sure exactly what is on it, and I am fine with that. I didn't teach to a test when I was in public school, and I see no reason to start now (and my public school kids always scored highest in the school, but does it really matter? See below.).
To "prove" the worth of standardized tests (or just to see what they were all about), a school board member in a large school district took the 10th grade standardized state test for math and English and publicized his scores. Below is part of the article:
By any reasonable measure, my friend is a success. His now-grown kids are well-educated. He has a big house in a good part of town. Paid-for condo in the Caribbean. Influential friends. Lots of frequent flyer miles. Enough time of his own to give serious attention to his school board responsibilities. The margins of his electoral wins and his good relationships with administrators and teachers testify to his openness to dialogue and willingness to listen.
He called me the morning he took the test to say he was sure he hadn’t done well, but had to wait for the results. A couple of days ago, realizing that local school board members don’t seem to be playing much of a role in the current “reform” brouhaha, I asked him what he now thought about the tests he’d taken.
“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote in an email. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.
He continued, “It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate.
“I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.
“I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession.
“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”
Here’s the clincher in what he wrote:
“If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.
The article continues to say that these tests are written, by and large, by people with no skin in the game and no understanding of what they are doing, that they in no way resemble reality with regard to form or function.
And yet our school systems continue to structure and re-structure curriculum around these annual tests. The ones who try to move outside of this system in any way, like Georgia, which is piloting testing around the Common Core Standards (CCS), go way overboarding, setting up 30 formal testing events for 6th graders, and 34 for 8th graders. When do they get to learn? To experience, to explore? When do they get to share and teach others and transform what they know by applying it to other situations?
America needs to open her eyes. I have never seen such blantant disregard for facts, such blindness to evidence, as is currently happening regarding high-stakes testing in this country. Simply designing and administering a test that you have taught to does not constitute an education, and we are failing millions of children who desperately need us.
Hopefully the school board member's bravery and candor will help to push changes through. I wish more adults would sit in on the tests we force our children to take.