Why Tests Are A Poor Lever For School Improvement

Feb 23, 2015

Recorded on: February 20, 2015

Air Date: February 23, 2015

People from one end to the other on the political spectrum are criticizing Oregon’s new standardized testing system for public schools. Professor Jerry Rosiek recognizes that assessments are a necessary part of education. But, he says, there is no sound reason for the outcome of the tests to be high stakes for schools or teachers. He argues that making teacher employment and advancement dependent on students’ test performance distorts the broader ethical relationship between teachers and students. It turns student learning into a means to another goal, rather than an end unto itself.

Rosiek, a professor of Education Studies and the parent of an elementary school student, will describe the unlikely coalition of grass roots constituencies who object to the tests. He will explain some of their objections. He will describe the testing system’s failure to assess ambitious aspects of the Common Core curriculum and its limits in measuring school performance. Finally, he will offer recommendations for constructive ways to handle conversations about the tests at the local level.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is part of a national movement to align state tests with one another and with national core curriculum standards. As a result of the controversy, the coalition implementing the Smarter Balanced testing system has shrunk from the original 31 states to 17. Nationwide, less than 42% of students will be taking standardized tests aligned with the core curriculum, rather than the 75% initially expected.

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