Dear USDOE, Testing Disaster Is Yours, and You Still Don’t Get It: A Reader

Let’s not miss that in the same week that vice president (and plagiarist) Joe Biden holds a press conference to announce what he plans not to do (o, the narcissism of the ruling class!), the U.S. Department of Education has come to some sort of Onion-esque realization that students are being subjected to an inordinate number of standardized tests (although it seems the USDOE is able only to worry about the redundancy and excessive number of tests).

The Ozymandias (I mean, Obama) administration has announced:

“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

And let’s not fail to acknowledge that such vapid bureaucratic nonsense is inevitably the result of know-nothings being appointed to positions of power (think never-taught Arne Duncan serving as Secretary of Education in the wake of Margaret Dishonest-or-Incompetent Spellings turning her hollow SOE gig into becoming president of the University of North Carolina, resulting in her bragging about having none of the background experiences typical of leading higher education).

You see, U.S. education became a test-corrupted venture in the early decades of the twentieth century, which was documented and confronted by Raymond Callahan in 1962 as the cult of efficiency.

Yes, 1962.

But know-nothings in positions of power can only confirm the truism: those unaware of the past are doomed to repeat it.

Finally, let’s be very clear that the number of unnecessary standardized tests equals anything greater than zero.

And to confirm that we are over-testing students—and that it isn’t a problem of bad tests or redundant tests, but the test fetish itself—here is a reader:

Confirmed: Standardized testing has taken over our schools. But who’s to blame?

Whatever Happened to Scientifically Based Research in Education Policy?

The Conversation: Tests don’t improve learning. And PARCC will be no different

What If Standardized Tests Were Biased Against Whites, Males, Affluent?

Is There an Alternative to Accountability-Based, Corporate Education Reform?

Corporations Are Behind The Common Core State Standards — And That’s Why They’ll Never Work

Common Core State Standards, William Mathis (NEPC)

Are Common Core and Testing Debates “Two Different Matters”?

Do High-Stakes Tests Improve Learning?

Conclusions

Looking across all of the combinations of incentives, the committee found that when evaluated using low-stakes tests, incentives’ overall effects on achievement tend to be small and are effectively zero for a number of programs. Even when evaluated using the high-stakes tests attached to the incentives, a number of programs show only small effects.

The largest effects resulted from incentives applied to schools, such as those used in NCLB. Even here, however, the effect size of 0.08 is the equivalent of moving a student performing at the 50th percentile to the 53rd percentile. Raising student achievement in the United States to reach the level of the highest-performing nations would require a gain equivalent to moving a student at the 50th percentile to the 84th percentile. Unfortunately, no intervention has been demonstrated to produce an increase that dramatic. The improvement generated by school-based incentives is no less than that shown by other successful educational interventions.

However, although some types of incentives perform as well as other interventions, given the immense amount of policy emphasis that incentives have received during the past three decades, the amount of improvement they have produced so far is strikingly small. The study committee concluded that despite using incentives in various forms for 30 years, policymakers and educational administrators still do not know how to use them to consistently generate positive effects on student achievement and drive improvements in education.

De-Testing and De-Grading Schools: Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization

4 comments

  1. Pingback: Paul Thomas to US DOE: The Testing Disaster Is Yours, Own It | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Karen Mitchell

    Up until this post, I have enjoyed reading and agree with much of what you say. I also agree with your overall assertion here as well as the anger. It’s hard not to lash out when something happens that should have happened long ago. I also agree that we should call out administrations for appointing
    Secretaries who have little to no experience in education. However, I believe you accomplish little by name-calling. Calling Joe Biden a narcissistic plagiarist throws this argument off point at the beginning of it, and is misplaced sarcasm, as is furthering the specter of Obama as “King.” It approaches the rhetoric we seek to condemn very day now from the far right. Thanks for your blog.

    Karen Mitchell
    University of Alaska Southeast

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