Friday, March 24, 2006

Betty Sternberg on pointless NCLB testing

In an editorial called, More Required Tests Won't Solve Education Problems - March 24, 2006 by Betty J. Sternberg much of the growing criticism we read about everywhere is confirmed.

In Connecticut this month, more than 300,000 students are wrestling with about 12.6 million test pages and roughly 63 million questions.

What will this massive testing tell us that we don't already know? Nothing.

In general, wealthier students do better than poorer students, non-minority students do better than minority students, students without disabilities do better than students with disabilities, and there are significant gaps among urban, suburban and rural students.
This is precisely the point. These tests do nothing but confirm what we already know about test results - they are perfectly predictable. Yet every year the newspapers run test comparisons as though the results will somehow change.

"Gee, maybe Hartford scored higher than Greenwich this year." Somehow pigs are more likely to sprout wings and fly. Nobody is remotely surprised by the results and it is pure buffoonery to think this stuff has educational meaning.

The pretense of fairness, the very idea that America is the Land of Opportunity is mocked by such "tests". More foolishly (if it's possible), the idiot bureaucrats in Washington would have us believe that the summary of results somehow makes schools "accountable" just because "We Test therefore, um, We Pass and Fail, and, uh, if you fail....". This mind-numbing stupidity is how our schools are judged.

Sternberg is right of course, rich schools always pass, poor schools always fail so why do we punish the brave souls who do their best teaching or administrating in poor districts? To be shocked by this well-worn reality would indicate mental-illness on the observer's part - WE KNOW THIS ALREADY. And these tests are not for the good of the kids or the school. This is the Bush administration's way of destroying the public school system.

Why is anyone playing this game?

Sternberg continues...

Less, but better testing - testing that works to improve student achievement, not just record it - would allow us to focus on closing the unacceptably large differences in skills among subgroups of children.

NCLB, with its heavy emphasis on academic achievement measured by annual tests alone, will have our nation's children meeting minimal targets and busily answering those 5.8 billion multiple-choice questions.

This law does little to create an academically astute, responsible, caring, compassionate and wise citizenry.
Wow, I'm proud of this woman. Yes, that's what concerned citizens everywhere think.

Nobody is against testing as a tool to measure individual progress - that makes sense assuming the results are used to help the student learn and grow as an individual. NCLB, on the other hand, uses the results to enforce conformity, guarantee mediocrity, and brutally and unfairly beat up well-intentioned school districts.

The State needs to continue to fight NCLB. Parents need to pressure Congress to repeal it. Lawyers need to fight its Constitutionality.

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