There may not be any subject in education that is more contentious than testing, and it brings up a lot of questions that no one has really looked into on a broad scale. What and how many tests are being administered to students each year? What are the assessments used for? Are tests being used to evaluate teachers or are they being used to gauge what students are learning? How much time is being spent in the classroom dedicated to administering and preparing for tests? Are our teachers teaching to the test or is testing being based on what is taught? Who requires these tests and what are they doing with the data that they produce? How do parents, teacher unions, school boards, and other community members feel about testing? How is the community at large being informed about the purpose and use of test data?
It was this conversation and these questions that drove my initial involvement with Council of the Great City Schools. At the first council board meeting that I attended on behalf of the Fort Worth ISD where we engaged in a "lively" conversation about testing. It was at this meeting where the Council’s board of directors requested a study to get a better handle on how much testing big-city school systems conducted. Last summer that study was completed, and last Saturday, October 24 the study was released.
Immediately following the release of the study President Obama addressed the results and called for a limit on time spent in classrooms on testing. This morning Secretary Duncan held a joint press conference with Council of the Great City Schools Executive Director Michael Casserly where they discussed the findings of the research and the Department of Education unveiled new guidelines for testing.
There are many reasons educators have found themselves saddled with a testing system that is at times unwieldy and illogical. And it will take considerable effort to recreate something more intelligent. Urban school systems generally believe that annual testing of students is a good idea, particularly in a
setting where we are working hard to improve student achievement. But the current assessment regime needs to be overhauled. The report does not answer all questions, but it offers a more complete and well-rounded picture than ever before available. And it also points out that there is culpability at all levels for the expansion of testing from congress to our very own school board. The report also does not call for the end of testing. It is very important to clarify that it is absolutely necessary to assess how our children are learning in the classroom. But if tests are to be used they have to be intentional, aligned with curriculum, and the results have to be used in a meaningful way.
The overall jist is that testing has a place in education, but should not be the purpose of education.
Download the full report here: