A parent was bemoaning the fact that her young student is made to carry his notebook with his standardized test scores around the school in the chance an administrator, or test Nazi, might need to take a look at the scores. Are test scores this important that administrators must have access to them every minute of the day? Is the school just too poor to purchase a locked filing cabinet? Of course, no doubt the scores are on a computer someplace. So what possible purpose does it serve to have a child carry their scores around the school?
It would seem to me to be precariously close to creating a serious privacy violation. Of course, in today’s world, testing advocates would argue that the child has his scores in his own private possession. Since children aren’t allowed too much time, if any, to play or to be children, one wouldn’t worry (well I’d worry anyway) that the folder would sit out someplace where another snoopy child would take a peek at the scores. Or that the school has some bullies who might grab the folder and begin to taunt the child….or…well you get the picture.
Discussing this exercise in test obsession, and whether there could be a legal suit concerned with privacy issues, parents and educators suddenly turned the conversation to the data rooms now proliferating into schools across the country. There are all kinds of examples of the dizzying array of post-it notes and magnets moving around—forward and backward—monitoring every test point a child moves. This is one of my favorite examples of what shouldn’t be done. HERE
Student’s names or pictures are listed on a wall and the rooms are supposed to be top secret, although most acknowledge people can sneak in or that the rooms aren’t secure. It is in these data rooms that strategic battle plans are drawn-up to watch the data. I am struck by how war-like this is. This school even calls it what it is. The rooms do look like what I could imagine would be a briefing room found at the pentagon. But it is children we are talking about here.
Those who like high-stakes tests and sorting through mounds of data will argue that it is necessary to watch every move the child makes on a grand scale to see improvement. They will tell you the data helps them to plan their strategy to help the child learn better and faster. They like to point to students who have difficulties in school.
I would argue that you need to take your eyes off the data and put them on the child with the difficulties and all the children for that matter. While you are at it, you might cast your glance at the parents who are fed up with all of this. And believe me, they are fed up. Peggy Robertson one of the coordinators of United Opt out of the Test National http://unitedoptout.com/ claims she can hardly keep up with all the parents signing up to opt out.
Still, I always try to be fair. Could this set-up really be worthwhile? Has it worked? Do we see children advancing by leaps and bounds? Jonathan Supovitz, an associate professor and director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, had this to say:
We certainly motivate educators when we hold them accountable for the results of the high-stakes tests their students take. But what do we motivate them to do? Years of research on NCLB and similar high-stakes testing programs tells us that without anything more to go by than the results of high-stakes tests, educators will produce shallower, not deeper instruction. That is, they’ll ‘teach to the test.’ They’ll use valuable class time to go over test-taking strategies. And they’ll put far more emphasis on the tested subjects—reading and math—at the expense of subjects like science that our children need to learn if they’re going to compete in the global economy.
Everyone seems to know this. We know about the cheating scandals as well. We also know that children learn better when they have a nurturing environment. Tests are merely one tool, of many, to discover more about children and how they learn. The real education takes place in the heart of the classroom with the teacher and their personalized educational plans for the child. And these plans are made in conjunction with critical input and feedback from involved parents. This is not rocket science. There doesn’t need to be mounds of data to understand a child. There is no war. Thus there is no need for data war rooms or children carrying their test scores around every minute of the day. Children can hand back their test scores to their teachers and carry around a good library book instead.