Friday 5: Testing the tests

Show some love to public education

Students with signs at a rally for public education in Harrisburg. February 2012

This is fight for the soul of public education,” says Brandon Johnson, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union.
One of the focal points of the Chicago Teachers Strike that began Monday is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s demand to have teacher evaluations and pay based on students scores on standardized tests. In corporate ed. reform this is known as the “value-added” model, and it’s being pushed across the country.

Without falling into the “good teacher/bad teacher” trap or debating the need for effective teacher evaluation, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves what we actually know about standardized tests before pegging their results to the pay of millions of people. Here are some starting questions.

  1. Who actually writes standardized tests?
  2. Do the tests encompass the full range of content and skills teachers should be imparting/encouraging in students?
  3. Who scores standardized tests? (And how often are the scores wrong?)
  4. Who is profiting off test creation/delivery and all of the remediation programs schools buy to improve student scores?
  5. What forces outside schools stand to benefit from linking teacher pay to student test scores?

If, as I suspect is the case, most Americans don’t know the answers to these questions, we ought to start thinking a little more critically before making employments decisions based on these tests.

And finally…GO CTU!

This is a much more important fight than any sports match.

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6 Responses to “Friday 5: Testing the tests”


  1. 1 Nate parrish September 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Standardized tests are a joke. A terrible way to gauge somebodies intelligence(and in this case paycheck). They are entirely too easy. A good example of how lazy this country has become when dealing with education.

    • 2 RogueAnthropologist September 14, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      I don’t know that laziness is the culprit here–there’s a very concerted effort by industry to privatize education, and standardized tests are part of that.

      • 3 Nate parrish September 14, 2012 at 9:24 pm

        I agree. What i was trying to say is their are much better ways to teach kids than standardized testing, but people seem content to let private companies do the testing for them.

  2. 4 nate parrish September 20, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    sorry if i came off the wrong way. a friend of mine teaches english at CV. the powers that be at CV volunteered for the value added model, and just started using it. they stuck him with the worst group of kids in the entire school. he is pretty much feeling hopeless at this point. he is expected to prepare them for the pssa testing coming up, and these kids (who are in 5th grade) cannot even add/subtract yet. he has 3 kids himself, and is worried that he will not have a job/will make next to no money by the end of the year. my prior comments were intended for parents/people who run these schools. sorry again. this subject just really gets my blood boiling, and i sympathize greatly with the teachers(who are the instant scapegoats in this situation)/kids stuck in the middle of this. its sad that the US is 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.


  1. 1 Quote of the Week: A 40-year teacher resigns | rogue anthropologist Trackback on April 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm
  2. 2 High-stakes tests are making kids sick. | rogue anthropologist Trackback on May 17, 2013 at 5:54 am

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