Steven Singer writes here about a dumb policy that is now commonplace thinking among both Ivy League corporate reformers and redneck legislators: If you make the tests harder, they reason, students will get higher test scores.


No, no, no, and no.


Singer says his students are weary of the endless testing. And it is getting worse because the tests will be even harder to pass in Pennsylvania.


He writes:



In the last two years, Pennsylvania has modified its mandatory assessments until it’s almost impossible for my students to pass.


Bureaucrats call it “raising standards,” but it’s really just making the unlikely almost unthinkable.


Impoverished students have traditionally had a harder time scoring as well as their wealthier peers. But the policy response has been to make things MORE difficult. How does that help?


Consider this: If a malnourished runner couldn’t finish the 50 yard dash, forcing him to run 100 yards isn’t raising standards. It’s piling on.


Oh. Both your arms are broken? Here. Bench press 300 lbs.


Both your feet were chopped off in an accident? Go climb Mt. Everest.


That’s what’s happening in the Keystone State and across the country. We’re adding extra layers of complexity to each assessment without regard to whether they’re developmentally appropriate or even necessary and fair to gauge individual skills.


Where Common Core State Standards have been adopted (and Pennsylvania has its own version called PA Core), annual tests have become irrationally difficult. That’s why last year’s state tests – which were the first completely aligned to PA Core – saw a steep drop off in passing scores. Students flunked it in droves.


Where the previous tests were bad, the new ones are beyond inappropriate.


Yes, across the country, the tests have been written and designed to fail most students. “Reformers” cheer the increased “rigor.” Do they care that most students are failing the tests? Why do they think that the score on a  standardized test is a measure of good education? More likely, the pursuit of high test scores via multiple-choice tests undermines good education.