As a nation, we are hypnotized by standardized tests and the scores they produce. We forget that the tests and the answers are written by human beings. The tests are not objective, except for the scoring, which is done by machine. Giving the same bad questions to all students does not reveal who learned the most or who is smartest. They do reveal who is best at figuring out what the person who wrote the question wants them to answer.

Bob Shepherd, who has written about curriculum, assessment, and is now teaching in Florida, writes:

“the field testing that ensued laid bare the intellectual bankruptcy of the testing”

It’s been 18 years now since the passage of NCLB. We’ve had this two-decade-long national “field test” of standardized testing–a study larger in duration and scope than any other, ever. The verdict? Standardized testing has been far worse than a failure. Not only has it failed, completely, to improve educational outcomes. It has narrowed and distorted curricula and pedagogy and produced a whole generation of kids who think that studies in English aren’t about writing essays and poems and stories or reading and discussing great poems and plays and novels but about scanning text snippets to figure out what the correct answers are to convoluted, tortured, indefensible multiple-choice questions.

“My teachers should have ridden with Jessie James
for all the time that they stole from me.”
–Richard Brautigan

Who should write tests? Teachers should write their own tests. They know what they taught.

Who should grade tests? Teachers should be trusted to grade tests.

Any test without diagnostic value should be banned.