Saturday, October 24, 2015

Should School Test Standards be Changed?

Well, maybe yes, maybe no, maybe both.

It seems the Obama administration is deciding that maybe standardized testing in K – 12 education has gone too far:

Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

While a similar statement (followed by concrete action) on foreign military adventurism might offer an unequivocal cheer from lovers of less government intrusion everywhere, I cannot say that this is always and everywhere true for standardized testing.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

The so-called Common Core standards seem to have broken the camel’s back:

States, led by the National Governors Association and advised by local educators, created the so-called Common Core standards, which outlined the skills students should have upon graduation, and signed on to tests tied to those standards.

As a new generation of tests tied to the Common Core was rolled out last spring, several states abandoned plans to use the tests, while others renounced the Common Core…

What is motivating this change?

… “I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”

It is the educators.  So says Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.

Teachers’ unions, which had led the opposition on the left to the amount of testing, declared the reversal of sorts a victory.

On the left, parents and unions objected to tying tests to teacher evaluations…

More precisely, it is the teachers’ unions.

Considered the lusciousness of this – the reason the federal government wants to reduce standardized testing has nothing to do with the students; it is because the teachers are failing the test.

Now, returning to the question that is the title of this post, and my answer to this question: Should school test standards be changed?  Well, maybe yes, maybe no, maybe both.

There is something close to 55 million K – 12 students in the United States.  55 million.  Let the number sink in.

Those of you who are parents consider – even in your small sample size of about two children per family: does one size fit both of your children when it comes to their interests, how they learn, how they study, how they progress, etc.?  To ask the question is to answer it.  Yet here we have a one-size-fits-all testing regimen for 55 million.

For some students, the regimen may be just fine; for most, I am certain that the regimen is wrong.

Just remember, they aren’t changing it because of the failure of 55 million students to conform to a one-size-fits-all curriculum, they are changing it because the test score are used to grade the teachers, and the teachers are failing.

You see, they aren’t giving up on one-size-fits-all 55 million – they just want to try on a different size:

“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who has announced that he will leave office in December.

How would he know – does he have a close relationship with each one of 55 million of them?

“What happens if somebody puts a cap on testing, and to meet the cap ends up eliminating tests that could actually be helpful, or leaves the redundancy in the test and gets rid of a test that teachers can use to inform their instruction?” asked Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization that represents about 70 large urban school districts.

Who can say what is “helpful” for each one of 55 million students? 

The administration said it would issue “clear guidance” on testing by January.

Apparently the federal government can say.

Rest assured, nothing in the new testing regimen will come close to examining the pillars of the religion that is the American state.


  1. I will remain forever grateful to the home-schooling pioneers who made it possible for me and my wife to keep our kids home and away from all this nonsense.

  2. Before being admitted into a university, it should be mandatory for the prospective student to exhibit an ability to spell the word u-n-i-v-e-r-s-i-t-y. Two tries, no tutors, cheat sheets or acts of Congress allowed.

  3. Can somebody explain to me why a standardized test, either a state one or a national one, would put any more stress on the system than regular testing does? After all, if the standardized test merely measures what you are supposed to be teaching anyway, what additional burden could there be? Is the test written in a special language, or a code, whereby extra time is needed to prepare for it?

    Now, I'm not a fan of institutionalized schooling, in general, but this seems like a lot of hollering about nothing. If you had a teacher that quizzed every week, or every day, how much time would that take from instruction? My guess is, not very much.

    This whole issue is loaded with myths and theories and nonsense. The purpose of a standardized test is to account for the fact that some teachers give easy tests and some give difficult ones. The standardized test takes that uncertainty out of the equation. And, we're talking about probably the LCD of knowledge for a standardized test, not elite knowledge. We are testing to make sure that they know what they're supposed to know. We're not testing MENSA applicants.

    Maybe parents should start giving tests to their own kids, to find out what they really know, or don't know. They might find out, however, that they know a lot more about trendy subjects such as transgenderism than they do about transfer functions.

    1. There is nothing "standard" about 55 million individual students as individuals.

      There is something "standard" about them as cows to be milked.

      If this explanation isn't sufficient, you are a perfect product of standardized tests.