Jersey Jazzman (aka Mark Weber) explains how standardized tests are designed and how they function in real life.

Standardized tests are designed to produce a normal curve. Most students are in the middle. The curve accurately reflects socioeconomic status. If states use proficiency levels instead, those levels are completely arbitrary. They can be moved up or down, as the leaders choose, to demonstrate progress or failure.

That’s why it is puzzling that civil rights groups are supporting annual standardized testing in Federal law. It wastes money, labels the neediest kids as failures year after year, provides no helpful information, has no diagnostic value, and benefits no one but the testing corporations and the reformsters who are eager to privatize public schools by waving around low scores and gaps.

JJ writes:

“The correlation between socio-economic status and test scores is absolutely iron-clad. Does anyone think eliminating the ceiling effect is going to change this? Granted, there is likely a ceiling on how income effects test scores: a kid in a family making $300K a year probably isn’t at much, if any, disadvantage compared to a kid in a family making $500K.

“But the wealthy have always enjoyed an advantage in our false meritocracy. The biases in the tests themselves, coupled with the inequitable distribution of resources available for schools, all but guarantee the majority of the variation in test scores will be explained by class.

“The neo-liberal view appears to be that this is inevitable and just, so long as we decouple these inequities from race. If we can get some more students of color into elite schools, and create a few more black and brown millionaires and billionaires, everything will be “fair.” The owners of the country can then sleep soundly at night, content that they may be classists, but they aren’t racists.

“I’m all for social mobility, but increasing it isn’t the same as decreasing inequity. There are millions of people in this county doing difficult, necessary jobs. It’s wrong to consign people of color to these jobs through a system of social reproduction in our schools. But it’s also wrong to pretend that we have a system where everybody can be above average, and in doing so can make a better life for themselves.

“So long as we keep making bell curves, somebody has to be on the left side. Somebody has to do the work that needs to get done. But there’s no reason those decent, hardworking people shouldn’t have good wages and good medical care and good housing and disposable income and workplace rights and time to spend raising their children.”

He wonders what would happen if we stopped using the bell curve.

Don’t you?