So, when a state legislator asked her opinion of how our state uses test scores, she shared a detailed critique of school testing and test scores in general, and how they have been misused and abused, including here in Kentucky. We asked if we could share her response, and she agreed. Here it is:
Thanks for asking. It’s a complex subject difficult to answer via messenger. I would be happy to meet and give you more examples and stats when you have some time.
But here are my thoughts in a nutshell:
The test scores are simply confirmation that the students’ zip code/wealth, not school or teacher quality, determine the outcome on high-stakes tests. These tests are culturally biased, so of course certain populations score low. And because they are not used to guide instruction, many students do not fill in a single bubble since they know they don’t benefit them. Many students experience such anxiety over these tests that this impacts their performance as well.
This archaic and inhumane ritual pits schools against each other, leads to unethical gaming of the system, promotes abusive and unfair test prep tactics, and causes the cutting out of meaningful instruction of subjects that are not on the test. Civics, art, music, even recess and lunch, have been squeezed down in order to attempt to raise this inauthentic measure.
Some schools have admission criteria, while other schools serve high populations of special needs students, some who can’t even hold a pencil, and yet these schools’ test scores are compared to each other. So lower performing schools face punitive measures simply for serving a greater at-risk population. How is that right? No wonder teacher turnover is higher in these schools.
JCPS competes with a high private-school population, so of course our district’s scores are going to be lower than other districts. Students who can afford private school and have engaged parents have been plucked out of the mix.
My son’s test scores prove my point. He attended one of the lowest-performing schools in the state. Yet he scored quite well. The school and the teachers cannot take the blame or the credit for a student’s zip code/wealth. It frustrates me that we continue this exercise in futility. Because what happens is, students who score poorly (vulnerable kids) end up being pulled out of meaningful class time to do more remedial test work and take more tests. The stories I could tell you would blow your mind.
There are so many more authentic and meaningful ways to measure quality instruction than high-stakes standardized tests. But we have to remember our real purpose is educating students, not constantly figuring out how to punitively measure them. We have ended up putting too much emphasis on measuring the end product at the expense of the recipe and ingredients.
One of my favorite expressions is “a thermometer never made a patient well.” It’s good to check temp on occasion, but instead the adults have allowed test scores to become a competitive sport and our kids are being used as pawns.
[tweet_box design=”box_02″ float=”none”]Adults have allowed test scores to become a competitive sport and our kids are being used as pawns.[/tweet_box]
Thanks again for reaching out.
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