Reading & Reacting: Putting Standardized Testing in Context – Walt Gardner’s Reality Check – Education Week

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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by woodleywonderworks

By Walt Gardner @ Education Week

In a short but pointed column, Gardner briefly looks into the history of standardized testing. It is hard to believe, but there was time when there was no standardized tests and it didn’t seem to bother too many people. Once we started using them the controversy began and has not subsided since.

Standardized tests are still the subject of heated debate. They often contain items that are dubious from a pedagogical point of view. On the basis of the results, taxpayers draw invalid inferences about students and teachers. Let’s not forget that it’s easy to design a standardized test that can engineer practically any desired outcome.

The last bit, about being engineered to produce desired outcomes, is the part that any teacher with awareness has reason for pause. As teacher evaluations are being increasingly linked with student scores, the prospects that a test can be designed for students to struggle and show no improvement is precisely the kind of thing that would make just about any teacher look bad.

Anyone ready to dismiss that point need only look at the debacle in New York this summer. Just because a test is standardized does not mean it will be a good test, certain about what it is actually trying to asses, or even remotely fair for students or teachers alike.

This understanding, combined with the political battle being fought on battleground education makes nearly every teacher in America nervous. Gardner accomplishes more in fewer words than most in confronting the debate.

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