Streamline standardized tests
Standardized tests — the favorite target of conservatives, teachers unions, many school officials and parents — faced a new barrage of criticism in recent days.
A respected group of urban school leaders highlighted the burdensome, often redundant, number of tests students take to fulfill federal, state and district requirements. The Obama administration, which until that report had never met a test it didnt like, immediately did a 180, acknowledging that testing needs to be reduced. Finally, scores announced last week on the nations gold-standard math test fell for the first time in 25 years. Reading scores either flat-lined or dropped.
All this could turn out to be good news for education — if it spurs needed changes. But that will happen only if the administration, state officials, teachers unions and Republicans and Democrats in Congress can call a truce in their bitter war over testing and agree to some smart trade-offs. Yes, streamline the testing regime. No, dont eliminate mandated tests that provide long-needed accountability and dont drop test progress as part of teacher evaluations.
The war over testing has been waged almost since the 2002 passage of President George W. Bushs No Child Left Behind law, which, for the first time, required annual statewide assessments of students. The laws major accomplishment, achieved through that yearly testing, was to shine a harsh light on schools with low performance or lagging achievement among minority groups.
Using tests for accountability was a sound idea. It went wrong not because of testing but because of the unattainable goal attached to it. The law demanded that every child in every state be proficient in math and reading by 2014.
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