For those of you who follow my education-related posts, you know I'm no fan of the way testing in public schools is currently conceived and used. In my view, the cart is firmly before the horse, where the horse of quality education is being pulled by the cart of testing rather than the more appropriate other way around. My concerns are myriad:
But what would happen if schools were to "test to the teach?" In other words, what if we used testing to assess how well students are learning the curriculum taught to them by their teachers, rather than the curriculum needed to pass the tests? In fact, as Susan Engel, a noted education researcher suggests, tests could be developed to measure most everything that students learn, both in terms of subjects (history, science, vocabulary) and life skills (abstract thinking, problem solving). The results of these tests could be far more useful tools for improving the quality of education and closing the achievement gap than the current misguided use of testing.
Educators agree that testing has value when it serves a positive function in improving children's educational experiences:
What's preventing the U.S. from using testing to actually advance our public education goals? How about expediency, in a culture that looks for quick fixes and the path of least resistance. Or short-sightedness, where the politicians who legislate public education reform are more interested in political theater and campaign contributions than substantial solutions. Or a disconnect between what has been demonstrated to work by researchers and teachers and what politicians and school bureaucrats want to believe will work. Or vested interests, such as said politicians and school bureaucrats, teachers' unions, testing companies, and textbook publishers, who profit most from maintaining the status quo. All of these forces create an inertia -- think trying to change the trajectory of an asteroid hurtling through space -- that is all but impossible to change.
The sad thing is that those who suffer the most, namely, our children, have no say in the matter, and those who advocate for them have no power to have a say.