Steve Nelson declares flatly that:

Assessment may be the most damaging concept in contemporary education debate.

Education reform is obsessed with assessment and accountability. Whether in the form of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, or the slightly more reasonable Common Core, billions of dollars are devoted to defining what kids should know and then assessing whether they know it. I won’t waste my keystrokes or your time reiterating the evils of the testing and assessment industry. Lots of folks have done that quite thoroughly.

Most thoughtful educational commentary suggests how assessments might be better. I, like many others, have pointed out the foolishness of many exams based on the Common Core. Appropriately, the phrase “fill in the bubble” has become shorthand for poor educational practice.

I don’t think the criticisms go nearly far enough. There is no need for these assessments at all.

What do we learn from these standardized tests?

Aggregate test results in any school or district reveal these three things:

1. The wealth or poverty of the school or district.


2. The extent to which the school or district skewed its curriculum and teaching practices toward the service of elevating test scores.


3. The extent to which the school or district assembled, through selective/deceptive enrollment practices or geographic luck, a group of students who were more likely to do well on the tests.

And these are the factors on which we are basing policy and demoralizing a generation of kids and, particularly, teachers!

Here is a thought:

Real education reform will come when, and only when, we address poverty, fund schools properly and honor the teaching profession with good pay and the respect teachers deserve.