From a lengthy .pdf titled “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” by Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy, this snip jumped out at me as one that captures the challenges that our testing mindset is bringing us:
The new Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English and the work being done by the two assessment consortia will begin to address some of these issues, but, even when that work is done, the United States will still be at an enormous disadvantage relative to our competitors. We will have tests in these two subjects that are still not squarely based on clearly drawn curricula. The two consortia are betting heavily on the ability of computer-scored tests to measure the more complex skills and the creativity and capacity for innovation on which the future of our economy is likely to depend. No country that is currently out-performing the United States is doing that or is even considering doing that, because they are deeply skeptical that computer-scored tests or examinations can adequately measure the acquisition of the skills and knowledge they are most interested in. If the United States is right about this, we will wind up with a significant advantage over our competitors in the accuracy, timeliness and cost of scoring. If we are wrong, we will significantly hamper our capacity to measure the things we are most interested in measuring and will probably drive our curricula in directions we will ultimately regret.
What kills me is that we are even attempting to measure creativity and innovation by a “computer scored test” when we have this thing called a teacher already in the room and the potential of many other human assessors via the network who could do a much better job. Inherent in all of this is a deep distrust of the ability of humans to do the work of preparing our children for their worlds. On some level, I get that…we have a lot of work to do to bring the profession to a different, more effective place when it comes to developing the learning dispositions we want in both teachers and students. But surely, investing in that process, creating a new normal of teaching and learning will better serve our kids than attempting to standardize creativity.
Our policy makers have this deep love of the test for lots of reasons: money, power, politics. But at it’s root, it’s because they are not educators. They can’t define and communicate what real learning is and looks like to their constituents, people who have all formed their own views of learning in test centric schools (for the most part.) They crave the easy answer. They can’t lead on this, but neither are they willing to let others, the real experts on learning, the educators in our schools, take the reins. That, ultimately, is what we will come to regret most of all.