Friday, December 5, 2008

Testing Mania

If you're interested in getting the mental gears turning, check out this piece by John Goodlad in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It goes on a little bit long, but it's worth reading as it kind of gives the history of how we came to our current educational state under No Child Left Behind.

My favorite part in the article comes pretty early when Goodland writes, "I did not see any point in trying to fix what was not broken but should be terminated. ... Our proclivity for testing has been around a long time and probably will continue to be. The challenge is to choose wisely what and how we test."

The point I'm taking from that is not that NCLB is not working the way it's supposed to, it's that the program is working, but that it's just a bad idea. Hear, hear.

NCLB was not what brought us to our testing mania. Goodland pretty convincingly lays out that we were on a long road toward that end. NCLB is the culmination of that mania. It's the official enshrinement of the "accountability" movement at a national level.

I'm not against accountability. I am against the obsession of casting a single test score as the sole basis for our educational system. As Diane Ravitch writes in a pretty great posting on her blog, "By making test scores the sole gauge of progress, one can expect to see cheating and test prepping, and other quasi-legitimate and outright illegitimate ways of reaching the only goal that matters. When teachers, principals, and students are given rewards and punishments for only one measure, that measure may well rise, but at a cost."

That cost is becoming more and more clear as our testing mania continues.

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