Washington Post columnist Esther J. Cepeda recently went to parent-teacher conferences and brought home the standardized testing results.
I laid the papers out on the kitchen table: Lengthy, detailed progress reports showing the grade and weight of each quiz and test for the quarter. Colorful line graphs displaying academic achievement over the course of three years in each of five core competencies. Authoritative bar charts clearly showing whether my child was below, met or exceeded standards in reading and math at the end of the previous academic year.
Yes, I love “high-stakes” testing. Though there are plenty of critics out there who would have you believe that standardized tests, and even grade-level common assessments, are meaningless, soul-sucking wastes of student time and enthusiasm, these tests do the job. In other words, they quantify how a student is performing in school.
“Testing passes the test”, Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post, November 4, 2012.
Last month, when my husband and I met with our son’s kindergarten teacher, she went over his TPRI results with us. (Our son is an excellent reader, but he didn’t follow directions on some of the phonics questions.) Not until third grade will our son take the STAAR tests.
I like Cepeda’s perspective. She says she appreciates seeing data about how her kids are doing compared to other kids in the district, in the state, and nationally. I think I will, too.
Some charter schools take the assessment idea even further. When I visited IDEA Carver, some classrooms were taking assessment exams; for students using the adaptive software in the iLearning Hotspot, data on their progress is shared with teachers and parents several times a week.
Hundreds of school boards in Texas, including Alamo Heights ISD and most districts in Bexar County, have passed resolutions criticizing the current standardized testing regime. “Business group makes case for strong accountability ahead of legislative session”, Maria Luisa Cesar, San Antonio Express-News, October 31, 2012. Advocating in favor of standardized testing is the Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce, including the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Institute for Education Reform, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Business Leadership Council, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
What does Cepeda have to say to critics of standardized testing?
Nearly a decade ago when I was training to be a teacher, the storm clouds were already gathering about increased standardized testing. Today they seem to be anathema to anyone who joined the education-industrial complex in order to save the world, mete out social justice, or raise children’s self-esteem. But those folks need to get over it.