Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tide is Turning on Testing

For the past 10 years, the main theme in education has been accountability. That accountability comes through the ever-increasing use of standardized tests to judge the quality of teachers, schools, and districts. Florida has gone so far as to rank districts and schools by their performance on the state's standardized test. The "Student Success Act" passed in 2011 now requires that teachers be judged in part by their students' performance on standardized tests. Because these tests put so much at stake, school districts have created benchmark exams to predict how students will perform on the standardized tests. Teachers are told only to teach those benchmarks that will be covered on the state tests, which helps to explain the sudden drop in writing scores when spelling and grammar were added to the criteria for passing. Furthermore, districts will now have to create subject-area exams for those classes who do not have an existing standardized test. 

Well, the tide is turning on testing. School districts across Florida and the country are signing resolutions calling for a reduction in testing or at least a change in how the tests are used to judge the very worth and value of students, teachers, schools, and districts. I don't think anyone wants standardized testing to go away altogether. I don't think we could succeed politically with that. However, I do believe that there is an argument to be made for using these test scores as diagnostic tools to discover the ways to help advance students rather than using them as a sledgehammer. As far as  creating new subject area exams is concerned, do we really need standardized tests in PE, music, art, etc?

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