Thursday, April 3, 2014

Testing . . .Testing . . .

A middle school principal in Pennsylvania speaks out against testing regimes, and offers some ideas on why they have metastasized in recent years:
When standardized testing was simply a few periods taken out of an entire year, it was not a strain on instructional time and the data were welcomed in helping make curricular and instructional adjustments. As educators, we understand the importance of assessment.
But the beast has been sprouting heads, and everyone can understand at least one of the reasons: profit.
Testing makes a lot of money for education companies. Here in Pennsylvania in 2013 we paid more than $200 million to the company responsible for the development of the Keystone exams — tests aligned with the Common Core curriculum (known as PA Core in Pennsylvania). Our state legislators just approved another five “optional” Keystones in the coming years. Can you imagine the cost to taxpayers.
In talking with my kids' teachers, they seem to support the idea of national education standards, and believe that the common core curriculum is more rigorous than what came before - which they see as a good thing. They have some issues with the speed with which the new standards have been implemented, with no transitional years built in, but they reserve their criticism almost exclusively for the overwhelming amount of standardized assessments they are forced to give, and the way those assessments eat away at instructional time.

The teachers would never say it, but I have to think it also galls them (and it certainly galls me) that our state seems to have unlimited resources to pay for standardized assessments; the grading of assessments; the computers needed to take assessments; the increased bandwidth necessary to use the computers for assessments; not to mention the ongoing upkeep and replacement of this quickly-obsolete technology. All this, while funding for teaching assistants was zeroed out, the pay-bump for earning advanced degrees was eliminated, and spending on "non-essential" items such as music, P.E., art, and libraries is being crowded out.

You know how Conservative politicians complain about government not working, get elected, and then make sure it doesn't work, so they can offer privatization as the solution to all of our problems?  "School Reform" advocates (many with significant financial ties to corporations that stand to make a mint off educational technology and charter schools) seem to be working from the same playbook. Turn public schools into "education factories," decrease instructional time and teacher pay, and then point to charters and vouchers as the solution to our "failing public schools."

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