Anti-testing rebellion grows

Resistance to testing is growing as schools introduce tougher tests linked to Common Core standards, writes Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy on Ed Week‘s Top Performers blog. Parents — and sometimes teachers — are opting out of state exams.

Test resistance isn’t seen in high-performing countries, Tucker writes. All, except Finland, have tests that match their standards. But they’re not like U.S. tests.

First, they are designed to match the curriculum, to find out whether and to what degree students have mastered the curriculum the teacher has been teaching. American tests, for many years, have been designed to be curriculum neutral, meaning unrelated to the curriculum.  So American teachers have seen the basic skills tests they are familiar with as their enemy, testing things that they did not necessarily teach, and often don’t believe should be taught.

Common Core State Standards will fix this, if teachers can teach a standards-based curriculum aligned to the tests.

Second, American tests have been designed to be, first and foremost, cheap.  . . .  (Multiple-choice) tests are great at testing the rudiments of the basic skills and not very good at testing complex skills, deep understanding, critical thinking or creativity, the things teachers want most to teach, another reason for them to detest the typical test.  In the top-performing countries, there is very little use of multiple-choice, computer-based testing.  Most tests are essay-based.  They are scored by teachers trained to score them and teachers generally feel that these examinations are testing the things they think really matter.

Our top competitors give statewide or national exams two or three times in a student’s school career, often in 10th grade and the end of high school.  Testing to monitor school quality is done by sampling a few students in a few schools.  They can afford expensive, high-quality tests because they do less testing.

No top-performing country has an accountability system like No Child Left Behind, which mandates annual testing in grades three through eight.  No other country is using test scores to evaluate teachers.

American teachers “see cheap tests, unrelated to what they teach and incapable of measuring the things they really care about, being used to determine their fate and that of their students,” Tucker writes. If Common Core tests are cheap, low-quality tests, “millions of American teachers may rebel.”

Testing could be Common Core’s fatal flaw, writes Peg Tyre in the final part of her four-part series on what Common Core means for American education.

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  1. Crimson Wife says:

    There is a big difference between testing a child 2 or 3 times during his/her school career and subjecting him/her to testing every single year between 2nd and 11th. I’m not anti-test, but do believe that annual testing is a waste of time and money for students who score at or above grade level.

    • When I was little, it seemed like we got to take either the Iowa or CAT tests every year…. I enjoyed them, but it meant a week where there was basically no school going on, just bubbles and recess.

      • Crimson Wife says:

        When I was growing up, we took the CAT in 3rd, 5th, and 8th. Test prep was minimal rather than being a huge focus of schooling like today.

        • momof4 says:

          Back in the Dark Ages (1997) when my youngest was in MS (one of the top schools in MoCo, MD), and was beginning the state/county testing, there were honors classes in all of the major subjects (not sure about Spanish I, but yes for II) and, in those classes, test prep was minimal-to-nonexistent. It was mostly reminders about matching the number of the question to the number of the answer bubble. There might be a class spent on sample questions, but nothing more than one class period – mostly reminders of stuff they hadn’t done in a year or so or clarifying the expected format of short-answer questions. Now that honors classes are much more infrequent, especially in ES-MS, these kids – who will get a high pass on the test – are sitting in classes with kids who won’t . Their time is wasted and their needs aren’t being met. Perhaps a mass refusal from this group (whose scores the school depends on for its reputation and publicity) would get them something more appropriate. I know, it’s a fantasy.

          • The CAT/IOWA thing was in Pennsylvania– and no prep at all, just the practice questions at the beginning of the test and a reminder to bring pencils and eat breakfast.

            When I was in MoCo, we took the Maryland Function Math/Reading/Writing tests in 7th grade as practice. Back then, if you passed you still had to retake in HS.

            Then in HS we took reading/math/citizenship and writing in 10th grade. I was in a magnet school. There was no prep other than ‘here are some homework assignments you can do when you finish in 15 minutes and have to sit there staring at the wall for 2 more hours.

            HOWEVER, we loved the tests, because EVERYONE got half-days during them! And mixed grade classes were basically canceled. So we all got to go home early (or go to downtown Silver Spring for lunch and a movie, since the magnet busses still ran at their regular times.) Lots of fun!

            Sad that gifted kids have to sit through test prep now. What a waste.

          • Sad that gifted kids have to sit through test prep now. What a waste.

            One of my most vivid memories from K-6 was being forced to do spelling work I had mastered literally years before.  An utter waste of time, which was one of many things which led me to hate both school and the “teachers” who would not let me run ahead with a passion.

    • momof4 says:

      Unless, of course,such testing enforces the expectation that those kids in the top quarter or third of the national cohort will make significantly more than a year’s progress every year; the amount of which should reflect the child’s position within that cohort. Kids at the far right end of the distribution make two years’ progress etc. Naturally, that won’t happen because of the dreaded achievement gap. As presently constituted, testing is useless for these kids because it doesn’t discriminate at the “top” level, which is ridiculously low, so it is a waste of time for these kids. Unfortunately, that’s also true of much that goes on in their classrooms.

  2. lightly seasoned says:

    Except Common Core really isn’t a curriculum.

    I worked with a bunch of released proto-items from Smarter Balanced not too long ago. One task — for 6th graders — was to write a piece of historical fiction in 70 minutes.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    Teachers may rebel if the tests don’t test what the teachers think is important. I suppose they might, but the important thing for the rest of us is to find out what the teachers think is important.
    It is not entirely an exaggeration to suspect that more than one teacher might think introspection in journaling about oneself is important. Another, trained in the school of Zinn, might be concerned that the student have the proper view of the Cold War. Or George Washington.
    And the idea that we could get a consensus is tricky, and not particularly relevant since a good many teachers, even though in a minority, would have a different view.
    That said, graduating HS in 62, I remember a number of things about my senior year fondly, among them the seemingly endless time in the cafeteria filling in bubbles for some purpose which, if it was explained to us, I have forgotten, or never understood.