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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