The corporate reformers love standardized testing. They treat the scores as sacred truths. The scores are the measure of success or failure. We hear again and again that school choice will close the achievement gap. We hear it from rightwing think tanks and governor’s who never showed any interest in the well-being of poor children and children of color. As a matter of fact, the achievement gap will never close because it is a reflection of the measure. Standardized tests are normed on a bell curve. The bell curve never closes.

Steven Singer explains the problem with standardized tests. They measure privilege. Their standard is whiteness and advantage. They give honor to those who have the most.

He writes:

“We talk about standardized testing as if we don’t really understand what it is.

“We say we want No child left behind!

“And then we pass a law named after that very sentiment that ensures some students MUST be left behind.

“We say we want Every student to succeed!

“And then we pass a law named after that very sentiment that ensures every student will NOT succeed.

“It would be absurd if not for the millions of children being forced to endure the harsh reality behind our pretty words.

“It’s not these ideals that are the problem. It’s standardized testing.

“Researchers, statisticians, and academics of every stripe have called for an end to high stakes testing in education policy. Parents, students and teachers have written letters, testified before congressional committees, protested in the streets, even refused to take or give the tests. All to deaf ears.

“The federal government still requires all students in 3-8th grade and once in high school to take standardized tests.

“But these assessments are graded on a curve. A certain amount of students are at the bottom, a certain amount are at the top, and most are clustered in the middle. This would be true if you were testing all geniuses or all people with traumatic brain injuries.

“It doesn’t matter how smart your test takers are. There will always be this bell curve distribution. That’s how the tests are designed. So to talk about raising test scores is nonsensical. You can raise scores at school A or School B, but the total set of all test takers will always be the same. And some students will always fail.

“But that isn’t even the worst part.

“Standardization, itself, has certain consequences. We seem to have forgotten what the term even means. It’s defined as the act of evaluating someone or something by reference to a standard.”