As part of my life-long (and mostly losing) battle against the misuse of test data (and anything referred to in education by the language of “achievement”) I offer this incredibly succinct and accurate quote by the Jersey Jazzman and encourage you to slip it into all of your conversations, educational and other.
“Standardized tests don’t measure learning so much as they rank and order children according to a social construction that is based on the notion that we must have winners and losers in our society.”
I’ve written about this before (see here, here and here) and probably will again. It’s important to keep saying as long as achievement data is used comparatively and as a weapon against “failing schools” and “bad teachers.” Achievement data is put forward as an objective means of measuring learning. In fact, achievement data doesn’t measure learning. It does, however, serve as an accurate measure of socioeconomic status. Thus, achievement data is simply a marker of privilege that is used to reinforce privilege. As such, those who present any argument for school reform that is fundamentally based on achievement data are actually arguing for maintaining our society’s status quo. They are presenting an argument that functions to benefit the privileged at the expense of the already marginalized.
The Jazzman continues:
“Ranking and sorting students does nothing to address this core problem in today’s America. All it does is ratchet up the pressure on children, whose parents understand that a life without a college degree increasingly means a life of misery. It’s become clear to many (even if they don’t articulate it in the same way I am doing here) that the standardized test is the lynchpin for this system. And it’s also become clear that the defenders of the real status quo refuse to acknowledge the truth about this state of affairs..
And maybe that’s why people are getting fed up with standardized tests: they are a distraction that keeps us from doing what really needs to be done.”