Annual testing may not be necessary, said President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting on education for Hispanics.
” . . . let’s find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let’s apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let’s figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let’s make sure that that’s not the only way we’re judging whether a school is doing well.”
That left a lot of people confused, writes Michele McNeil on Politics K-12. After all, Obama’s Education Department strongly favors annual testing.
Teacher Anthony Cody piles on: Obama is attacking his own education policies. For example:
Race to the Top requires states to tie teacher pay and evaluations to student test scores? If ever there was a recipe for teaching to the test, this is it! his Secretary of Education is proposing to evaluate teacher preparation programs by tracking the test scores of the teachers they produce? his administration’s plan for the new version of No Child Left Behind continues to place tremendous pressure on schools attended by the poorest students, ensuring that there will still be extremely high stakes attached to these tests? This creates the most invidious inequity of all — where students most in need of the sort of wholistic, project-based curriculum the President rightly says is the cure to boredom remain stuck in schools forced to focus on test scores. that his Department of Education is proposing greatly expanding both the number of subjects tested, and the frequency of tests, to enable us to measure the “value” each teacher adds to their students?
Progressives should stop “wringing their hands about the limited ability of a standardized test to capture the full range of learning experiences,” argues Matt Yglesias. He gives the definition of “basic” reading competence for NAEP Grade 8:
Eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to locate information; identify statements of main idea, theme, or author’s purpose; and make simple inferences from texts. They should be able to interpret the meaning of a word as it is used in the text. Students performing at this level should also be able to state judgments and give some support about content and presentation of content.
Nationwide, 26 percent of eighth graders — 30 percent of boys, 40 percent of low-income students, 44 percent of blacks — test below this level. “They can’t identify statements of main idea, theme, or author’s purpose; and make simple inferences from texts,” writes Yglesias.
This kind of basic reading competency is definitely something we can measure on standardized tests. And it’s important.
If these students are tested occasionally by their teacher, but don’t take the same tests as other students, if nobody outside the school monitors their progress, will they learn more? That’s not what happened before No Child Left Behind. I also lack faith in a holistic, project-based curriculum to teach the children of poorly educated parents.