Education Opinion

Anti-Testing Backlash Will Backfire

By Walt Gardner — May 30, 2016 1 min read
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Until the Every Student Succeeds Act was passed, I understood why standardized tests provoked fierce opposition. But under the new law, most states will not use test results to evaluate teachers or schools. That’s why I think demonizing all standardized testing is counterproductive (“Leaked Questions Rekindle Debate Over Common Core Tests,” The New York Times, May 25).

I’m not referring now to the egregious questions from PARCC’s latest exam given to fourth graders, which are developmentally wrong. For example, it asked students to write an essay based on a passage from a book on sharks that is widely considered to be appropriate for sixth or seven graders. It’s that kind of error that gives all standardized tests a bad name. Instead, I see the persistent resistance to all standardized tests as counterproductive to teachers. Taxpayers are entitled to know if students are being effectively taught. Testing is an indispensable part of the process.

Critics of my position will argue that testing is acceptable as long as the tests are designed by classroom teachers who know their students. There is much truth to their position. But spending on public education in this country is at an all-time high. Taxpayers read about the performance of our students on tests of international competition and wonder why the U.S. does not rank near the top. If students from other countries do well on standardized tests, why can’t ours?

Responding that such tests do not tell the entire story is correct, but it is seen as a way of deflecting accountability. Confidence and trust are essential if traditional public schools are to exist. Rather than abolish all standardized tests, efforts should be made to improve the quality of these tests and then use them primarily for diagnostic purposes.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.