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August 24, 2015

Two articles frame testing and opting out in different ways, based on recent polls.  Working from the new PDK/Gallup poll on attitudes toward education, the Washington Post concludes that Americans think standardized testing has gone too far.  The Atlantic draws on an Education Next poll, which shows a majority of Americans against opting-out of standardized tests, noting that African-Americans and Hispanics generally support testing because it provides important information on achievement gaps.  Having gone through a few years of testing with my son, I would argue that testing is necessary, but there is too much of it (and too much preparation for it).  Until there’s a way to improve the teacher pipeline and make sure that every teacher is a good teacher, testing seems to provide one of the only ways to prompt teachers to stay on track with the curriculum.  However, there is no reason for all the practice tests, and no reason that testing should take up two weeks’ worth of mornings.  I’ve just gotten practice tests for the ISEE, and it is a two and half hour test that covers vocabulary, mathematical skills and reasoning, and writing.  A test of this length would seem to offer a pretty good snapshot of what students know.  I’ve even read that not all students would need to take tests to get a sense of how a school or teacher is performing.

More cheerful reading: Kristina Rizga reports in Mother Jones on students who are refusing tests as the measure of their attainments, and teachers who coach each other so they can bring out the best in their students.  Rizga writes, “It’s not just students who miss out on a chance to learn when standardized tests set the pace. Teachers, too, lose opportunities to improve their craft and professional judgment—for example, detecting where their students’ thinking hits what McKamey calls a ‘knot’ and figuring out how they can improve.” In other words, you can’t fix education through test scores, but through improving teacher education and support.   

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