James Arnold: Testing Testing 123
Dr. James Arnold does not post very often on his blog, but this week he let loose with some observations about the Big Standardized Test and why teachers do not love it.
Want to see a teacher curse ? Maybe not out loud, but I’m pretty sure they’ll internalize profane thoughts the moment you mention standardized tests. They resent the time spent on testing materials, testing procedures, testing review, testing pep rallies (yes they really are a thing) and the days missed out of actual teaching because of the preparation and administration of the test. They also resent the fact that they are required to assist with test administration AND are blamed when students don’t do well….or well enough. The USDOE has allowed testing companies to determine testing procedures, so during those days and weeks when tests are reviewed or actually given teachers are told not to actually teach or do anything that might possibly distract students from THE TEST.
Tests are nothing new to education. Teachers have been creating and administering their own tests since, well, since there were teachers. They use tests to determine what students know or don’t know, and also to give them an idea of the effectiveness of whatever teaching techniques they use. Every teacher knows that every student learns in different ways at different times and each student responds effectively to some methods but not to others. That’s what differentiation is all about. Want to see this in action? If you have two children, you already know it. For every Wally there is a Beaver, and for every Marsha there’s a Jan. Now take those personalities and add 23 or 24 more completely different entities in one class, mix in two or three students with learning disabilities and a couple of kids with 504 plans and you begin to get an idea of just how difficult teaching really is even without the imposition of other things we think should be a teacher’s responsibility.
I have often wondered how politicians can say with a straight face that every student deserves an individualized, personal education and that we are going to measure that education with a test that’s the same for everybody. They really must believe it, though, because testing companies are raking in over $1.7 BILLION per year from states for mandated standardized testing. Costs per student vary from state to state, but the money totals are significant. Georgia spends about $14 per student on testing per year, Hawaii spends $105 and DC $114. (You can figure that disparity out.) That means Georgia spends over $25 million on mandated standardized tests each year. That’s not just $14 per student, it also means about $209 per teacher and about $10900 per school that could be used for something – anything – else. Whether the money comes from state coffers or from the USDOE, it’s all from taxpayers and provides useless information that teachers cannot use in the classroom to improve instruction.