Boston Globe Piece Misses the Mark on Assessments
Citing four books that criticize student testing, Katherine Whittemore claims “almost all” the literature on assessments is “inimical to the acronym-ical”—suggesting experts roundly believe annual assessments do more harm than good.
“Such tests foster homogeneity and discourage intrinsic motivation and innovation,” Whittemore argues, drawing comparisons between the testing culture in China and that in the United States—the latter of which she calls a “Trojan horse.”
But high-quality assessments are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to measure student development and to provide support where students need it. As the civil rights community has made clear, good tests are especially important for low-income students and students of color, to ensure those students have equal access to a quality education.
“Data [from student assessments] provide the power to advocate for greater equality under the law,” 12 national civil rights groups wrote last year. “We rely on consistent, accurate and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children.”
And the faith community agrees.
“Last year, most states passed an important milestone by administering student assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards,” explains Reverend Tony Suarez. “For the first time families were given an honest account of their children’s abilities measured to levels that ensure they will become college- and career-ready.”
In New York, where opt-out efforts have been most concentrated, a growing chorus emerged this year urging families to “opt-in” to high-quality assessments. “Yearly assessments are vital in measuring learning,” the New York Post wrote. “They provide critical feedback about students, teachers and schools.”
Whittemore’s position seems to condone opt-out efforts, buying into opponents’ claims that state exams impair classroom learning instead of adding to it. But, as former Education Secretary Bill Bennett points out, opt-out efforts don’t have students’ best interests in mind.
“Let’s be clear: there are constructive ways to improve education and accountability policies. Opting out is not one of them,” Bennett wrote earlier this year. “Refusing to participate in assessments puts students, parents and teachers at a disadvantage, and it does little to address legitimate concerns about the quality and volume of state tests.”
Most states are finally measuring to levels that reflect the skills and knowledge students need to graduate high school fully prepared for college and careers. For parents and teachers that means more accurate information and a better ability to support their kids.
“Parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or associated tests,” Mike Petrilli urged in USA Today last fall. “They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.”
Petrilli’s message is particularly poignant for individuals like Whittemore, who would believe opponents’ message that states should turn back on this important progress.