Testing: A Poor Excuse for Education

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    NEWSLETTERS

    West Rock

    The testing of students in our public schools is reaching astounding proportions.

    Our education officials, on both the state and local levels, are throwing more and more tests at kids in a dubious effort to improve the educational process.

    We live in an age when politicians and bureaucrats believe in quick fixes, and what better way to provide that than by devising another test.

    The latest surge of tests is aimed more at evaluating teachers than children, although the children are taking the tests. The New York Times reports that the city is spending millions to create as many as 16 new standardized exams, using federal money provided by the state, that will test children and be used to evaluate teachers.

    We are creating the most over-tested group of students in the United States. It seems that the people running our educational system are running out of gas. Their idea of education seems to be strictly based on statistical information.

    It’s not a question of how much the atmosphere in a school is conducive to learning. It’s not how well-rounded the student is after exposure to teachers in the system. Numbers will determine everything.

    And clearly, if the past is any indication, teachers will continue to teach to the test. The new tests, the Times reports, would cover science, math, social studies and English and would be administered to students from the third to the 12th grades.

    But since the tests are being given by the very teachers who are being evaluated, is there no danger that the teachers will err on the side of making it easier for their pupils to pass the tests? City educators told the Times that these exams would be based on tasks, like asking students to progress through a multistep math problem or write an essay with the goal of developing “higher-order thinking skills.”      

    If the umpire is calling balls and strikes -- on himself or herself -- how can the result be fair?

    Education scholar Diane Ravitch says:  “Our schools need experienced teachers and a curriculum with more time for in-depth study of history, science, civics and other subjects that prepare students for the duties of citizenship. After all that’s the primary purpose of public education: to sustain our democracy.”

    The education of our youngsters has been politicized. Politicians and educators want credit for improving education. But, as yet, no one has come up with a program to make real progress.

    We need some of those “higher-order thinking skills” from the people who are running the system and calling the shots.