Kathleen Porter-Magee of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute explains here why the anti-testing movement is wrong. She describes what she calls four “myths.”
Myth #1: teachers should be allowed to teach what they want, or “let teachers teach.” This is a very bad idea, she says, because teachers will have low expectations if you don’t tell them what to do.
Myth #2: emphasizing testing causes “drill and kill” instruction. Nothing could be farther from the truth, she says, because the really successful students are those who get engaging instruction. Don’t pay attention to the hundreds of millions of dollars that districts and states are spending on test prep materials.
Myth #3: tests can’t measure what really matter. What they do matter is very important so don’t worry that they don’t measure everything. Of course, very few people say that tests should not be used, but that they should not be used for rewards and punishments. When used diagnostically, they can be helpful. When used for high-stakes, they corrupt instruction.
Myth #4: standardization doesn’t work. Porter-Magee likes standardization.
It would be easy to knock down each of these “myths” and her facile answers.
The real danger of high-stakes testing is that they ruin education. Children cannot be standardized. Each one is unique. Yes, standards are helpful as guidelines but not as rigid prescriptions. The greatest dangers of high-stakes testing are that they narrow the curriculum only to what is tested. They encourage states and districts to game the system. They promote cheating (e.g., D.C.). They are based on the pretense that standardized tests are scientific instruments. They are not. They are prone to statistical error, random error, human error, measurement error. No one’s life should hinge on these fallible instruments.
Porter-Magee should google Campbell’s Law and study it. Also, read Daniel Koretz’ book “Measuring Up.”