Friday, June 20, 2014

Standardized Tests Have Got To Go

It's time for standardized tests as a formal measure of anything to go.

For all of the 21st century, our public schools and students have been on a downward slide, and I blame much of it on standardized testing.

We use standardized tests to plan curriculum, evaluate students, and decide gifted or special ed placement.

We buy houses based on test scores.

We fire teachers based on test scores.

This is patently absurd.

Yesterday, even the Gates Foundation acknowledged that evaluating teachers based on test scores from the Common Core standards should be halted until students get used to the test.

"Last week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joined the two largest teachers' unions in calling for a temporary halt to evaluating teachers based on Common Core tests. The foundation has spent more than $200 million implementing the Common Core standards nationwide."

Why? Because the tests are flawed. They incentivize cheating (see D.C. cheating scandal under media darling Michelle Rhee's watch, and Beverly Hall's ridiculous ruination of thousands of children's lives). They drive an inflexible curriculum that offers no place to see students as individuals. 

Last week, my daughter, the only current student at HoneyFern School, took her annual standardized test. She took the reading and math sections only. We did zero test prep. I bubbled in her Social Security number the night before, and she took the math sections one day and the reading sections the next.

Her scores as an 8th grade student put her at a grade-level equivalent of post-high school.

Yes, she is gifted, but not profoundly. We follow no book curriculum, but she did design and build a house. She took it to the White House this week. Her education has been guided by her interests, and I have designed all of her instruction around what she is passionate about. 

Standardized tests focus on numbers, dollar signs, and politics.

It is time to focus on students in education, not politics or big money or textbook publishers. 

Standardized testing as a driver of any curricular or instructional or evaluative decisions needs to go immediately. 

HoneyFern can be scaled up and successful; the Met School in Rhode Island is an example of this (also, ironically, supported in part by the Gates Foundation but under increasing pressure to standardize even though they have had amazing success with some of the most challenging populations). It is time for parents and lawmakers and teachers to demand something different for their kids. 

Public school right now is not good enough, and it's time to change.