When you boil it down, the “education reformers” fundamentally believe that more tests will lead to better educational achievement. They claim that testing forces teachers to teach the concepts that matter and it forces students to learn those concepts or risk being condemned to never getting anything but low scores. The standardized testing debate is even a factor that led to the Chicago teacher’s strike.
These standardized tests are SO IMPORTANT to the “education reformers” that they demand that teacher evaluation systems include how well teacher’s students do on standardized tests. Connecticut’s new teacher evaluation law requires that 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation rating be based on the standardized test results, while Illinois’ new law requires that 25 percent of the teacher’s rating be based on the rests of their student’s standardized tests.
Forget the fact that poverty, language barriers and the number of students who require special education services are the single greatest variables that impact test scores.
Earlier this year, Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s Superintendent of Schools and “Education Reformer Extraordinaire,” announced that hence forth students in the Bridgeport schools will go from having ONE two-week period of standardized tests, (the Connecticut Mastery Tests,) to FOUR rounds of standardized testing.
Turns out that under Steven Adamowski, Connecticut’s other claim to the elite of “education reform,” Hartford schools had already moved in that direction. Instead of testing every day for two weeks, Hartford students, he claimed, would also do better if they were faced with these types of standardized tests three times per year.
To pull off such a herculean effort, all teachers were shifted to testing duty, meaning all “specials were cancelled for the duration of the testing periods. Apparently student’s minds are better focused when they don’t need to worry about attend things like art, music, physical education or other non-essential subjects.
In at least one confirmed case, when teachers complained that many students simply hadn’t acquired the language fluency to complete some of Hartford’s standardized tests (more than 40 percent of Hartford school children go home to households in which English is not the primary language), the administration instructed that Spanish/English dictionaries be given out to all bilingual students.
The problem being, of course, that many students hadn’t been taught yet how to make effective use of them, and furthermore, a significant number of students speak Vietnamese and other Asian languages. The individual “test periods” weren’t even lengthened to provide students the time to look up words, even if they knew how to do that.
As teachers know, but apparently education reformers do not, some standardized tests must be taken by computer. In Bridgeport, Vallas has pledged to conduct all standardized testing by computer in the next few years. In Hartford’s case, Adamowski’s directive was that each building administrator develop a scheduled depending on the computer/student ratio. Some of the better funded magnet schools have multiple computer labs, while traditional schools have only one.
In some cases, classrooms do have up to a half dozen, often older, computers. In those situations, where there are as many as 30 or more students, one group would take the test, while the remainder would, “wait their turn”.
A recent article in the Washington Post estimated that the annual cost of standardized testing in the United States is somewhere between $20 billion and $50 billion.
Texas, for example, shells out nearly $100 million a year on standardized testing and is on track to have spent $1.2 billion between 2000 and 2015. All of that money goes to Pearson, the huge testing company.
Georgia pays McGraw-Hill $11 million for one test and Pearson $5.4 million for another.
In Connecticut, the total amount of taxpayer funds spent on standardized testing has not been revealed, but with the state and Connecticut’s cities and towns adding more and more standardized tests, we can safely assuming that spending on testing is the fastest growing area of education spending in the state.
One thing that is known is that text anxiety is a real issue. Pearson’s 2012 achievement test manual includes three different reminders that it is the “Test Administrator’s” responsibility to notify the “Building Testing Coordinator” of any significant damage or contamination of an answer sheet due to vomit and that it is the Building Testing Coordinator, and not the Test Administrator who must determine how the situation will be handled so that the student can hand in a completed test.
Finally, as news reports are making clear, the use of standardized test results is a key issue in the Chicago teachers strike. While the new state law in Illinois requires that 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on the standardized test scores of their students, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to increase that number to 40 percent.
And Emanuel is not alone in his belief that more and more of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on the standardized test scores of their students.
Here in Connecticut, the new teacher evaluation policy requires that 22.5 percent of a teacher’s rating be based on standardized tests scores. However, Governor Malloy and his Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, along with their State Board of Education, were demanding that 45 to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on standardized test results.
Diane Ravitch also has a post about the standardized testing issue today. Definitely go read what she is adding to the debate – click here: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/09/11/value-added-nonsense/