Last week in this space I put forth nine reasons why it was absolutely essential that students be required to take machine-scored, multiple-choice bubble tests once they return to school. This was an entirely facetious essay that maintained, among other things, that NOT giving tests would cause an economic recession but that GIVING tests would make it easier for students to social distance because they would be chained to their desks for hours.
Because a few readers thought I was being serious, I thought it might be helpful to try to state directly and clearly how I really feel. Let me put it in caps, the typed equivalent of shouting from the rooftop, to make things perfectly clear: REQUIRING TESTS THIS SPRING WOULD BE CHILD ABUSE! Because this school year has been unpredictable, abnormal, and inconsistent, why would anyone expect anything but skewed (screwed up) data from mandatory tests, particularly because students who have been ‘remotely schooled’ all year do not have to take the tests, and no one is clear yet about how the tests would be administered to students now attending remotely? It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and anyone who cares about children should be demanding that the tests be cancelled.
When running for the Democratic nomination, candidate Biden told an audience of teachers in Pittsburgh that he was strongly opposed to mandated high-stakes testing. I was there and heard his pledge.
But in February of this year, President Biden’s Education Department said that states must give the tests mandated by ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, although the proclamation allowed states to request waivers and created some loopholes. Since that surprise announcement, many activists have been pressuring the Biden Administration to reverse the decision–and to keep his promise. No luck so far!!
The education historian turned activist Diane Ravitch summarized the problems with ever giving these machine-scored, multiple-choice bubble tests, whose scores, by the way, largely reflect the test-taker’s zip code, family income, and parental education :
“The tests are administered to students annually in March and early April. Teachers are usually not allowed to see the questions. The test results are returned to the schools in August or September. The students have different teachers by then. Their new teachers see their students’ scores but they are not allowed to know which questions the students got right or wrong. … This would be like going to a doctor with a pain in your stomach. The doctor gives you a battery of tests and says she will have the results in six months. When the results are reported, the doctor tells you that you are in the 45th percentile compared to others with a similar pain, but she doesn’t prescribe any medication because the test doesn’t say what caused your pain or where it is situated.“
I gave this post the title “Cancel The F**king Tests!”, but in case that doesn’t happen, I hope (SHOUTING NOW) that parents and their children will “BOYCOTT THE F**KING TESTS!”