State tests are a waste of money, learning time
I read with interest the Another Voice column by Sam Radford about supporting state assessments. He mentioned how important they are because they are purely diagnostic, a way to compare city and suburban students, and help teachers and schools keep kids from falling through the cracks. If that was only true. The state assessments do none of these. They are not diagnostic. They are not constructed to give teachers or schools individual learning profiles of strengths and areas of concern. Teachers and schools cannot use the results to plan future instruction.
The tests contain standardized questions that are intended to create a bell curve to be used in comparing schools and districts. The sad fact is the public and parents believe the results tell about their child’s learning. They may tell what a child knows, but they do not tell what a child was taught or the efforts of teachers. Parents deserve more than this. They deserve specific information about their children that points out what they do well or where future instruction can help improve their learning. These types of tests need to be given often in school and be constructed by teachers with an eye to what they actually teach. Once-a-year state testing cannot do this.
The basic question is: Why are we testing students? Then we need to ask if the state tests meet this need. State tests do not indicate the areas of creativity, problem solving, working together with others, and so many areas that parents want for their children.
We need to stop putting so much faith in state test results that do not do what they say they will do. As an experienced educator, I continually see the state tests, as they are currently written, to be a major waste of money and learning time, and an emotional cost for students and parents.
Robert E. Gallagher