To the Editor:
Three scholars have recommended testing students only every few years and using “higher-quality assessments that encourage more productive teaching” rather than current multiple-choice tests (“Note to Congress: Fewer, Better Tests Can Boost Student Achievement,” Oct. 9, 2013). In their Commentary, Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond, and John Jackson note that these tests can be used without spending more money than we are spending now on testing. Phrased another way, they are saying that the new tests will cost just as much as we are spending now, which is a lot, and that the cost will continue to grow.
We will still be spending millions on tests, and billions more to administer them online, with costs increasing as equipment is replaced and technology “advances.”
The bottom line is that the situation will remain the same: a huge bleeding of funds, all going to the testing and computer companies.
But this time it will be more appealing to the public because the tests are supposedly better and students don’t have to take them as often.
Before doing any of this, it has to be shown that it is necessary to test every student. We already have the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, given to samples of students and considered the assessment gold standard. And if the case is made that we need to test every student, it must be shown that the new tests are indeed higher-quality, through careful testing on small groups. They must be shown to have predictive validity, that they lead to greater and longer-lasting academic achievement.
This is hard to do when your goal is to make a quick buck.
Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.
A version of this letter appeared in the online comments section on edweek.org.
A version of this article appeared in the October 09, 2013 edition of Education Week as Just Another Testing Boondoggle? ‘Fewer, Better’ Strategy Has Flaws