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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Standardized Tests and Teacher Accountability

I was talking with a friend recently and I learned that he's now writing programs and managing the data from our state's standardized tests.  He's not one of the people analyzing the data, but he is very knowledgeable about the entire process.  He probably hasn't been in a public school classroom in over 20 years, but he can speak volumes about the picture we get from the tests.  He's big on holding teachers accountable and I would not argue with that.

However, as we talked I realized that he is only thinking of education from the view of the tests.  That's understandable given his job, but I hoped he'd give it more consideration.  I reminded him that when testing, the students work alone.  They cannot talk and they have very limited access to technology.  That's great for looking at part of what they have gained from education.  However, how many of their future work environments will resemble that testing environment?

He obviously had not considered that.  If he hadn't, how many others see the published test scores and think no further of what they indicate?

I think it was Kevin Honeycutt who pointed out a good quarterback does not throw the ball where the catcher is (and certainly not where he was) but instead, he will throw it to where the catcher will be.

When we talk about how well teachers are doing their jobs, let's think about where the students will be five and ten years from now.  Certainly we need to consider the standardized tests as we make necessary decisions.  But let's remember they can only provide a limited view.  If that view gets all the attention in the decisions involving money then innovative educators will lose opportunities to fully prepare their students.

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