Monday, April 6, 2015

Authority to Speak about "Testing"

I recently received an email criticizing me for being "a shill for the teachers" because of my recent criticism of PARCC testing. And, that sort of surprised me. For those who criticize me for my views on testing, I suspect there is much they don't know about me and my feelings on the broad issue of "standardized testing." For twenty-three years I have been an educator both in the United States and abroad, in both public and private schools, and at levels ranging from middle school and developmental English to AP English at the high school level. In addition I have two advanced degrees and have been writing about education for six years. Thus, I feel I am as well informed as any to speak about education. It's worth noting that many, if not most, proponents of testing and test-based reform have little or no experience in the classroom.

As an AP English teacher who preps students for that exam as well as ACT/SAT, I can hardly be considered one who opposes testing, accountability, or teaching to a test. However, I am a well informed and discerning critic of education and assessment, and my views are more complex than being for or against testing. I am suspcious of and critical toward the naive belief that standardized testing is the way to determine good/bad schools, good/bad teachers, and successful/failing students. Being critical of the PARCC assessment, the practice of yearly testing, the narrow focus on math/science, the problematic nature of "reading" tests, and the conclusions that testing will "fix schools" or that all (or even most) schools need to be fixed does not mean that I oppose "our kids getting a proper education." On the contrary, I have committed my life to it. And while I teach high level classes, I also lead school efforts on equity and closing the achievement gap, areas where we've made signficant progress.

Additionally, I disagree with and challenge statements by my critics about testing as a key to helping "our kids compete on the world stage." I can't imagine what they are using to base that assertion. But I know of no data linking test scores and global competiveness - and I know of much that refutes that. As far as my views, here are a few links that expand upon my thoughts here:

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