Tests, Tests, and More Tests · 23 January 2016
Dear Legislators and Policy Makers:
So called “New Matura” (original size 600 × 369 pixels)
by Marcin Otorowski licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Thank you for the wonderful job you are doing reforming education, especially the way you have placed high-stakes testing in its rightful place on our list of priorities.
I have been an educator for twenty years and in all that time, I have not come across anything that makes more sense than giving students more high-stakes tests. I am sure all the stakeholders – parents, teachers, students, administrators, employers, taxpayers, and of course, textbook and test publishers – would agree that making test passing the number one priority in education will solve all the problems that schools have. Here are just a few ways people benefit from this priority.
I am sure school administrators love the fact that they are now confined to their offices trying to schedule everything around tests and teacher evaluations. The new teacher evaluations tied to the testing regime make it practically impossible for administrators to leave their offices for any reason and ties them to their beloved computers. Administrators love to push digital paper around filling out forms on their one or two required observations of each staff member. They love to sit in front of their computers pressing buttons and filling in screens about what went on in the short times they visited a classroom. And they love to schedule everything around the all important tests. Gone are the days when administrators roamed the halls talking to students and dropping in on teachers.
Teachers benefit from the high-stakes tests as well. Those evaluations and scheduling problems keep administrators out of our classrooms where they might see some learning happening. And the tests are a marvelous boon. Gone are the days of teaching students how to think on their own and how to become learners. It is so much easier to be a teacher now when all we need to worry about is how to get through the endless paperwork and teach kids how to press the correct buttons on all those important tests. Teaching students to think is out of the question and that makes our job so much easier than it used to be before the tests.
Students and parents love the tests too. They especially like the fact that they do not have as many class days devoted to thinking and learning. Students often get to miss classes or arrive to school late because there are so many testing days. (A good portion of twenty or more days are dedicated to testing in our high school.) Students like the fact that once they learn the methods of taking these tests well, they can check out mentally. They can leave the learning behind and cruise through their education because they know how to perform on tests. An added bonus is that they and their parents can be proud their schools are doing so well on the reports generated from those tests.
Employers and taxpayers love those test reports too. They can see where their hard-earned tax dollars are going. Test scores rise as teachers teach to the tests. They are happy that future employees and taxpayers can take tests so well. They are happy that so many data points are available to show how well these students will perform outside the classroom. I am sure they do not believe the critics who say that there are already tests out there to determine how well students will perform inside or outside education. SAT, ACT, ASVAB are merely acronyms to them. The tests they represent certainly cannot predict as much about a student’s success as the current high-stakes tests. Nor can student attendance records or transcripts give any clue as to how good an employee a student might become. I am sure those employers and taxpayers stand behind the tests along with all those directly involved in education.
Which is why I am sure that none of the stakeholders begrudge the test and textbook publishers any of the money they are making with the proliferation of high-stakes tests. After all, nobody complains when the money is being well spent or going to a good cause. And nobody questions that high-stakes testing is a good cause. After all, everybody keeps telling us that education needs to be fixed, and how can we measure any fix except through testing? Besides, everybody believes that these publishers have the students’ and indeed all the stakeholders’ best interests at heart. What does it matter that they are lining their pockets with gold.
Thank you again legislators and policy makers on behalf of all the stakeholders of education and high-stakes testing. We appreciate all you have done to ensure that the citizenry of these United States are able to take tests well and thus engage in a productive society. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Michael T. Miyoshi
P.S. If you did not understand that this letter was dripping with sarcasm and irony, you can thank your teachers for teaching you how to take tests and not teaching you anything about Mark Twain or Jonathan Swift.
© 2016 Michael T. Miyoshi
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