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June 2012
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Standardized tests displacing quality, vital goals of education

By DICK USHER Fairdealing


"If 'they' (federal, state and local officials, boards, administrators and supervisors, etc.) would just leave us alone and let us teach!" An experienced and successful teacher almost couldn't wait to have me hear her say this. I saw her at the gym on a snow day. She said, "If I was eligible for full retirement benefits, I would retire right now. I love teaching but this is ridiculous. All they care about is test scores."

Now I see that Paducah and McCracken County schools have two more sets of test scores that "help predict how students will fare on the ACT test." That is, not one but two standardized tests which may predict performance on a third standardized test which may help a student to be admitted to college (unless of course a college uses the SAT or some other clone test for its admission).

The overuse and misuse of standardized tests is dismantling the quality of education for young people. Is there no end to the silly test score comparisons we make between countries, states, districts, classes, private/public schools, and even teachers? Such comparisons mean little or nothing for addressing the quality of schooling in a democracy. Our unique purposes for universal schooling are (in equal measures) citizenship, knowledge and personal development.

Scores on standardized tests are displacing every other goal and expectation for schools: character, citizenship, love of learning, creativity, expression, appreciation, scholarship, initiative, social skills, health and wellness, to name a few most important ones.

This test emphasis must be curbed. Too many good teachers are souring on teaching or leaving the profession entirely. We need all our teachers who awaken a student's desire to learn and kindle a sense of excitement about learning. Scores on standardized tests do not identify such teachers.



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