Is the Administration Finally Fessing up on School Testing?

For Immediate Release

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Is the Administration Finally Fessing up on School Testing?

WASHINGTON - Outgoing Secretary of Education Duncan said yesterday: “I’ve said on a number of occasions that we should expect scores in this period to bounce around some … this is really hard work, and big change never happens overnight. And, as the President recently said, ‘This is a decades-long or longer proposition.'”

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kkumashiro at usfca.edu, @kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro is dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco, and author of numerous books, including Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture.

He said today: “The release Wednesday of the 2015 Nation’s Report Card shows declines in student test scores in reading and mathematics, and stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric of high-stakes testing as the panacea for public education. Just four days prior, the Council of Great City Schools released their report that documents the extent to which students nationwide are being overtested, not only in the number of tests, but also in the time spent on testing and test prep, and what is worse, shows no evidence that all of this time, attention, and resources spent on testing has led to any significant gains in learning or achievement. None of this should be surprising: research was clear even before NCLB [No Child Left Behind] and RTTT [Race to the Top] that a testing regime would do little to improve education, and sure enough, what we have seen all too clearly is that a preoccupation with testing leads to a narrowed curriculum, particularly in the highest needs schools that already show low test scores.

“As if in anticipation of this bad news, the U.S. Department of Education on Saturday announced a ‘Testing Action Plan‘ that some have praised as a significant reversal of federal overreliance — particularly by the Obama/Duncan administration — on test-and-punish policies that scapegoated teachers and distracted attention from the systemic problems in education. But does this call for ‘fewer and smarter’ tests actually change what is fundamentally wrong with current ‘reforms’?

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“Unfortunately the Department continues to call for annual testing and for making high-stakes decisions based on student growth (gains in test scores), including evaluations of teachers and teacher-preparation programs, despite the critique by researchers that such use of ‘value-added modeling’ has proven to be neither valid nor reliable for such decision-making. Giving states some flexibility in how to use such test data does not address this more fundamental validity problem. In fact, states are increasingly showing skepticism over the assessments for the Common Core State Standards, which the test-makers themselves are telling us have not yet been proven valid as assessment instruments.

“This fall, as Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and as the Department prepares for the appointment of a new Secretary, the American public should demand that education experts be involved in developing better assessments and better uses of those assessments​.​”

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