Two on Standardized Testing

On the standardized testing cheating scandal from “Wrong Answer” by Rachel Aviv in the July 21, 2014 The New Yorker: 

He felt as if he and his colleagues were part of a nationwide “biological experiment” in which the variables- the fact that so many children were hungry and transient, and witnessing violence- hadn’t been controlled. David Berliner, the former dean of the school of education at Arizona State University, told me that, with the passage of the law {No Child Left Behind}, teachers were asked to compensate for factors outside their control. He said, “The people who say poverty is no excuse for low performance are now using teacher accountability as an excuse of doing nothing about poverty.” p. 59-60

…it became clear that most teachers though they were committing a victimless crime. “They didn’t see the value in the test, so they didn’t see that they were devaluing the kids by cheating, ” she said. Unlike recent cheating scandals at Harvard and Stuyvesant High School, where privileged students were concerned about their own advancement, those who cheated at Parks were never convinced of the importance of the tests; they viewed the cheating as a door they had to pass through in order to focus on issues that seemed more relevant to their students’ lives. p. 62

John Ewing, who served as the executive director of the American Mathematical Society for fifteen years, told me that he is perplexed by educators’ “infatuation with data”, their faith that it is more authoritative than using their own judgment. He explains the problem in terms of Campbell’s law, a principle that describes the risks of using a single indicator to measure complex social phenomena: the greater the value is placed on a quantitative measure, like test scores, the more likely it is that the people using it and the process it measures will be corrupted. “The end goal of education isn’t to get students to answer the right number of questions,” he said. “The goal is to have curious and creative students who can function in life.” p. 63

Also of interest: Meredith Broussard’s “Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing” from the July 15, 2014 The Atlantic.

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