Yay! (maybe)

Good news and bad news here. The good news is that the Obama Administration seems to have softened its stand on mandatory standardized testing, which has resulted in vastly excessive time spent in many schools and totally inappropriate teacher evaluation criteria. The bad news is that it’s not really much progress.

OK, let’s look at the news account. First of all, many (most?) news stories have claimed that the President has announced that not more than 2% of student classroom time should be devoted to testing. This caused considerable confusion, since the stories didn’t really mean testing in general. If you read the details, you see that they were referring to high-stakes standardized tests, not regular in-class tests and quizzes nor AP tests. That’s just as well, since school-developed tests and quizzes can be important learning experiences and should definitely not be limited to 2% of classroom time.

The whole intent was high-stakes standardized tests, such as MCAS and PARCC. Apparently those usually take just over 2% of classroom time anyway, so it doesn’t seem to be much of a victory. But maybe it is, since many schools spend vastly more than 2% of their time preparing for such tests. Will that be counted? Who knows.

Anyway, here are five references that may shed some light on the matter. First of all, from an article from the New York Times:

…the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.

Sounds good. Then an article from The Boston Globewhich points out that schools are currently spending only a little over 2% on standardized testing anyway, so probably this isn’t any big deal. Oh, well.

For a different sensibility, check out Math With Bad Drawings. This is too complex to summarize with a sound-bite, so please check the link and read the entire piece.

Next, an important piece from Commonwealth Magazine about how (and why) the state education commissioner has abandoned PARCC. All that work down the drain. But has he really abandoned PARCC? Read the article!

Then we have an article by Jennifer Berkshire that goes deeply into the issues involved, especially PARCC. Once again too complex to summarize here, so please read the article in the link.

Where does all this leave us? More hopeful than a year ago, I suppose, but still it probably isn’t any great shakes anyway. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to see that the Administration — especially Arne Duncan — may be having second thoughts about high-stakes testing. There’s still hope.





Categories: Teaching & Learning