Several well-received reports and blog posts provide hope that high-stakes standardized testing is reaching the end of its days. Good riddance! But before parents, educators, and students relax, it’s important to realize this horror show is not over.
Think of the movie Carrie. The audience shivers through the scary scenes. It wraps up. Then, Stephen King tricks us. Like a lot of horror movies, it isn’t over when you think it’s over. That’s the same scenario with standardized tests.
High-stakes standardized testing is being replaced with competency-based online assessment. It isn’t better. It’s worse! It’s advertised as rigor, benchmarks are still standardized, only now students must continuously master objectives online. Parents worry about online data collected about their students.
Diverting CARES Act Money to Online Assessment and Data
This is especially important to recognize at this time, when parents are relying on online learning from home, and states and local school districts are pushing to use money from the CARES Act to fund online assessment.
In Colorado, groups like Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform, and Transform Education Now want school districts to fund online assessment with programs like iReady. But students have only been out of school for a short time. Testing doesn’t improve learning. Teachers help children learn.
Instruction becomes a nonstop test! It’s all about the data! Common Core State Standards take children down the data river of no return. It’s one continuous horror show!
There’s social-emotional data, academic data, demographic data, and more.
It’s critical to understand the threat of competency or performance-based testing and challenge the new assessment. If not, students will be reduced to data points, and used for investment schemes. Schooling will become all about profit-making.
School Reformers Don’t Like Standardized Testing Either! Hmmm.
Here’s proof! Many who are aligned with corporate school reform also claim that standardized testing is no longer useful. Doesn’t it make you wonder why they’re on the same side as those who have always detested high-stakes standardized tests?
Here’s an example. Awhile back Barbara Miner wrote about school privatization in “Who’s Behind the Money?” for Rethinking Schools. She quotes Tom Vander Ark who worked for the Gates Foundation.
In 2001, Vander Ark said:
We’ve traditionally thought of schools [as being within] the purview of government and philanthropy. Now, a powerful third force is the education marketplace. From Edison to textbook publishing to education technology players, a new revolution is occurring in e-learning…. you have set the stage of a fundamental rethinking of education. Increasingly, there is a marketplace of choice in education.
Note. Edison schools were an attempt to privatize public schools. They were an abysmal failure, but the brand name EdisonLearning is still used to sell online material.
Vander Ark is no friend to public schools. So it’s important to note that last year he penned “A Proposal to End Standardized Testing.” Read his plan for schools, because nonprofits are working towards this kind of assessment.
Here’s what Vander Ark sees as replacing high-stakes standardized testing. He brags about a growing number of charter schools that act like diploma networks. This involves profiles of what students are expected to do.
The development of Common Core State Standards was a national effort to raise expectations and implement better tests.
Artificial intelligence is widely used to review and rate hiring profiles. Similarly, portfolios of student work can automatically be scored on many dimensions. In the last few months capabilities have matured enough that with large enough data sets, scoring engines would not require the extensive training historically required. This sort of permissioned sampling of student work would allow states to periodically check the quality of local systems.
Dallas students are beginning to build blockchain profiles that include certifications, credits and artifacts. In the near future, permissioned colleges will be able to review these profiles using their own selection criteria and offer admissions to qualifying students. Now that colleges can quickly and accurately review 100 writing samples, 50 science lab reports, and 50 computations, a college entrance exam will soon be of little value to students or colleges.
It’s time to end a century of standardized testing and focus instead on helping young people do work that matters. We no longer need to interrupt learning and test kids to find out what they know. A couple of brave state policy leaders could trigger what would be a quick change because everyone hates the tests.
Know the Companies that Stand to Profit on Student Information
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opened the door to KnowledgeWorks to determine how students will be assessed. KnowledgeWorks is a nonprofit which promotes personalized online learning. States are signing on. Here’s a podcast connecting Vander Ark and KnowledgeWorks. They discuss redefining learning for the new employment landscape. Here you’ll find KnowledgeWorks and their future plans for education. Knowledgeworks emphasizes Cradle to Career learning through StrivePartnership.
Questions and concern surround all testing, including the ACT, SAT, and the College Board. But Vander Ark describes a troubling alternative.
It’s nice to see that parents and educators hate standardized testing and want to abolish it. We should praise the parents and educators who fought high stakes testing since its start. The Opt Out movement was not in vain. Countless students were able to skip the pressure that comes from repetitive high-stakes standardized testing. That movement was invaluable because it brought awareness to the harm testing can do.
But that fight is not won. It has evolved into nonstop data collection on students through embedded online assessment.
It’s best not to dance on the grave of high-stakes standardized testing. The story isn’t over. What’s replacing standardized tests is frightening. But unlike the movie Carrie, which finally ended, this horror show will never end, unless parents and educators say enough.
Here are more personalized learning groups focused on data and assessment plans for America’s students. There are more….
Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
Aurora Institute (Formerly iNacol)
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSn)
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
Council of the Great City Schools
Common Education Data Standards
Sheila Resseger says
Here we go with AI as more efficient, and so “superior” to human teachers with their extensive knowledge base and experience and interpersonal relationships with their students [and sick time and pensions]–Vander Ark: “In the last few months capabilities have matured enough that with large enough data sets, scoring engines would not require the extensive training historically required. … Now that colleges can quickly and accurately review 100 writing samples, 50 science lab reports, and 50 computations, a college entrance exam will soon be of little value to students or colleges.” This mindset is fatally flawed. And talk about fatally flawed–iReady and its ilk. These mindless modules are the antithesis of authentic teaching/learning and are doing a profound disservice to our students, families, teachers, schools, and society.
Rick B. says
Here is what the software edu-meddlers will never get: The best teachers do not rely on “canned”, generic student activities, beyond (maybe) the seed of an idea. Instead they spend years continuously deleting, adding, modifying, tweaking their activities in order to get them to “work”. And activities that “work” are then adjusted to specific classes or even individual students. If you are a software engineer reading this, it is time to give up the ghost. All you are providing (maybe) is a very expensive seed of an idea that will barely resemble whatever you thought would work when a real teacher is done with it.
John Seay says
So are you saying teaching to the standardized tests is superior to actually teaching students intellectually stimulating content?