Last updated: March 16. 2013 11:39PM - 498 Views
By - mguydish@timesleader.com - (570) 991-6112

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The vastly over-matched rebel alliance continues to build support.Could the relentless assault of high-stakes testing be finally stemmed?

Today the Chicago Teachers Union launched a campaign in support of local and nationwide efforts to eliminate standardized non-state mandated test. Leave it to a teacher union to write as if penning a test question. Recast this phrase to make it understandable: 'Eliminate standardized non-state mandated tests'.

Their gist: Eliminating well-entrenched state standardized tests may be a futile dream, but cutting district-mandated tests is a reachable goal. As the press release (posted here) notes, a Chicago high school teacher boycott successfully eliminated a district-mandated test last year.

Teachers in a Seattle High School recently launched a similar boycott against district-mandated Measures of Academic Progress tests.

Note, though, that by and large, no one is trying to boycott the annual standardized reading and math tests given in every state by mandate of No Child Left Behind. It's much easier to take on a district adiminstration and school board than to butt heads with the state or federal departments of education. 

And there in lies the rub. Generally speaking, districts implement standardized tests to gauge readiness for those state standardized tests. Test-producing companies have eagerly fed this perpetual-testing machine, creating tests they insist will help prepare for more tests.

Standardized tests have been producing a potentially priceless database of academic achievment and failure. Used properly, that data can assist in school success. But there's strong argument it is not only being used improperly, but politically.

Consider Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett's decision to make charter schools look better than other public schools by changing the way their state tests are scrutinized, or the strange decision to abruptly require 11th grade students to take the new Keystone exams this year in place of the old state math and reading tests.

The former was rightly struck down by the feds, while the latter makes scant sense because Keystones are intended as end-of-course tests, and some students ended those courses (i.e. algebra) two or three years ago.

It's an extraordinarily safe bet scores on Keystones this school year will be lower than scores in the old 11th grade math and reading tests last year, giving the Corbett administration proof that public education is failing, thus justifying his privatization proposals.

But they will be lower because districts learned about the change too late to prepare for it. Which raises the real question:

Who's testing the judgment of people mandating the tests?

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