Heavily testing students and relying on their scores in order to hold schools – and in some cases teachers – accountable has become the norm in education policy. The No Child Left Behind Act, the largest piece of education legislation on the federal level, for example, uses performance on math and reading exams to gauge whether schools are failing or succeeding – and which schools are closed or phased out.
“Incentives are powerful, which means they don’t always do what they want them to do,” said Kevin Lang, a committee member who also chairs Boston University’s economics department. “As applied so far, they have not registered the type of improvements that everyone has hoped for despite the fact that it’s been a major thrust of education reform for the last 40 years.”
The tests educators rely on are often too narrow to measure student progress, according to the study. The testing system also failed to adequately safeguard itself, the study added, providing ways for teachers and students to produce results that seemed to reflect performance without actually teaching much.
That last sentence, the idea that we have a system that allows us to produce results without actually teaching much, is a huge indictment of the current educational framework. I’m starting to think more and more that the assessment “problem” is where we should be spending our energies more and more.