Show me the test scores
You want my kids to go to your schools? Show me they’re learning, writes Citizen Stewart in a defense of test-based accountability.
The anti-testing suburban opt-out movement is fizzling, reports Ed Week, but Stewart remains upset that testing is seen as an “obsession” rather than a reasonable way to evaluate school performance and progress. The fact that test results are used for accountability is a feature, not a bug, he argues.
. . . a big value of test scores is to give third-party verification and to shine a light on schools that are working so parents can make informed choices. . . . (I) find the idea that poor kids with parents who aren’t white and college educated ensure a school cannot have passing test scores insulting, racist, classist, and in breach of anything approximating progressivism. . . . It’s one colossal reason why I distrust the middle-class white education system so much that I want annual numbers to keep them honest so long as the participation of our kids is compulsory and funded mostly in one limited system. You demand my kids. I require your receipts.
Test scores are used to justify interventions that people in the education establishment hate, writes Stewart. “People get fired (in theory), contracts get cut, and schools close are replaced with other schools if test scores suck too long. . . . If all that happens, unions shrink.”
He concedes that “there is good research that prescriptions from the upper government do not produce the desired effect we want (or at least there is some conventional wisdom that research says that). ”
However, I will push back on the self-satisfying critiques (if only we had a hundred gazillion billion dollars to buy violins for everyone achievement would improve) that stop responsible intervention and lead to institutional paralysis. The buck should stop with the people who demand we put all our bucks in their schools.
Most of the controversy comes from using students’ test scores to evaluate teachers, Stewart writes. “The only tests teachers and their defenders dislike are the ones that create external accountability, because, in their minds, their expertise and experience are above accountability even when their results suck eggs.”
“Stop moaning about accountability,” Zach Wright tells his fellow teachers. “Stop griping about the unfairness of performance metrics.”