Education

Diane Ravitch: Why Every Child Should Opt Out of Standardized Testing

The tests today are pointless and meaningless.

Photo Credit: calicospanish.com

Want to end the obsession with standardized testing? Opt your children out of the state tests.

Ignore the threats from state and federal officials. The tests today have taken over too much of the school year. Teachers should prepare and give tests that cover what they taught.

What if all students opted out of testing? That’s democracy in action. The elected officials who mandate these tests would take notice. They might even discover that no high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year.

The tests today are pointless and meaningless.

The tests are meaningless because the results are returned months after the test, when the student has a different teacher. The tests are meaningless because the scores provide no information about what the students learned and didn’t learn. The teacher is not allowed to find out what students got wrong.

Officials claim that the tests help students and teachers and inform instruction. Balderdash. The tests rank and rate students. Worse, the developers of the Common Core tests selected a passing mark so high that the majority of children are expected to fail. The passing mark is a subjective judgment. What exactly is the value of telling children they are failures when they are in third grade?

Schools have cut back on the arts, civics, science, history, and physical education because they are not on the test.

The tests are given online because it is supposed to be cheaper. But many states and districts have had technological breakdowns, and the testing period starts all over again. Students who take pencil and paper tests get higher scores than similar children who take online tests. It may be cumbersome to scroll up and down or sideways, wasting time.

In some states and districts, children with disabilities are expected to take exactly the same tests as children their age, regardless of the nature of their disability. Florida became famous for trying to force a test on a dying child. He cheated the state by dying before they could test him.

When students write essays online, most will be graded by computer. The computer understands sentence length, grammar, and syntax. But the computer does not understand MEANING. A ridiculous essay that is complete gibberish can get a high score.

The testing regime is destroying education.It is driven by politicians who think that tests make students smarter and by educrats who fear to think an independent thought.

There are two ways to stop this madness. One would be to require legislators and policymakers in the states and federal government to take the tests they mandate and publish their scores. This would prove the value of the tests. Why shouldn’t they all be able to pass the 8th grade math test?

Since this is unlikely to happen, the best way to restore common sense to American education is to stop taking the tests. Parents should discuss the issues of testing with their children. Explain to them that the tests can’t measure what matters most: Kindness, integrity, honesty, responsibility, humor, creativity, wisdom, thoughtfulness.

The best and only way to send a message to the politicians is to let your children refuse the tests. Do you really care how their scores compare to those of children in other states? If you want to know how they are doing, ask the teachers who see them every day.

 

Diane Ravitch is a co-founder of the Network for Public Education. She is a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University. She is a graduate of the Houston public schools, Wellesley College (BA), Columbia University (Ph.D. in history of American education), and holds ten honorary doctorates. In 2011, she received the Daniel Patrick Moynihan award from the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences for her careful use of data and research to advance the common good. She blogs at dianeravitch.net.


 

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