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Amanda Krauss

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Suppose They Gave a Standardized Test and Nobody Came?

Posted: 05/15/2012 4:22 pm

According to the parents' group Parent Voices New York, New York schools have scheduled a series of tests that will have no impact on student or teacher evaluations -- in other words, tests existing solely to provide the for-profit test provider, NCS Pearson, with data for making more tests.

PVNY is calling for parents to boycott these "field tests," which are officially scheduled on the New York State Education Department web site. As the PVNY points out, "children are providing a free service for NCS Pearson, a company worth billions of dollars."

Pearson is the same company responsible for the pineapple test question debacle, and requires absolute secrecy regarding its test creation process, leading some parents to demand more transparency.

As a former educator, I will not pretend to be objective on this matter. PVNY is correct: Letting high stakes tests (and testmakers) drive education is ludicrous. Moreover, it is impossible for teachers to do their job in a system where their own assessments of students are inconsequential and their performance is judged on students' execution of questionable and secretly derived metrics.

Many years ago, the brilliant physicist Richard Feynman reported on a phenomenon in Brazilian colleges: The students could repeat definitions verbatim, but they had no applied knowledge of the phenomena they were describing. They could not identify real world instances of triboluminescence (for example) or extrapolate results from previous examples. That is exactly the kind of "learning" that standardized tests promote -- and promote very well, I might add. Pearson and other companies actively market their wares. If administrators and legislators do not hear opposition, they will continue to invest in such products.

I can only hope that other parents will take inspiration from PVNY, and let their school systems and lawmakers know that test driven education is not what they want for their children.

 

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