Diane Ravitch was recently interviewed in Salon on her thoughts on the current state of education reform. It’s a great interview with an appropriately prophetic title, Saying Goodbye to Public Education, so be sure to read it.
Ravitch, very knowledgeable about testing and its effects, highlights here the way that standardized test do not measure the effectiveness of public education, as they are purported to do, but simply measure privilege, and thus reinforce it.
“We’re doing to standardized testing what was done in ‘Brave New World.’ And in ‘Brave New World,’ the meritocracy was determined at conception. We use standardized tests as our means of sorting out kids, and saying ‘you’re at the top, and you’re at the bottom.’ The problem with that is that suggests an end to social mobility. Because the one thing we know about standardized testing is that no matter what standardized test it is, those who have are at the top and those who have not are at the bottom…
There are a few kids who rise to the top despite all obstacles. And kids from really wealthy circumstances who fall to the bottom. But on the whole and consistently, the standardized test is a reflection of socioeconomic status. So in effect the standardized test then becomes a giving to those who have, and… certifying the have-nots as have-nots.” (emphasis added)
Again, any version of education reform that is dependent on standardized testing is simply a sham that reinforces the status quo.