What’s behind the epidemic of inappropriate testing?
I once shared a very interesting bus ride to the airport with the president of Riverside Publishing, who write the Iowa Tests, back when Paul Vallas was using the test as a grade promotion barrier. Shortly after our visit, Riverside decided to stop providing CPS with grade-equivalent score labels which CPS used to make the political claim that flunked students were simply reading or doing math “below grade level.” Unfortunately, that did not stop CPS from continuing to misuse the test.
Certainly one reason tests are being misused and overused may be that there’s just too much money in testing for test publishers to want to police the use of their own tests. This is about to become an even more lucrative industry with the onset of the Common Core State Standards and CCSS tests.
Another reason may be the political pressure from well-funded groups that are out to privatize public education and undermine the teaching profession. This pressure forces otherwise well-meaning school officials to throw out what they know about teaching and learning and replace it with test prep.
A third reason may be that, as we move into the Common Core testing era, students are taking tests to test test questions for test publishers and to get data about how they might do on future tests. School officials sometimes use this information to identify the students who score closest to the all-important “meets” cut-off point, and focus extra school resources on those “bubble” kids.
It’s important to note that these reasons have everything to do with the best interests of adults, and nothing to do with what’s best for children.
Think of tests as steroids. Properly used in a limited manner by conscientious professionals, steroids can improve health. But when steroids are misused or overused, major health problems can ensue. Unfortunately, many school officials are like bad coaches, pushing steroids on the players because other schools are doing it, in a perverse effort to stay competitive.