Every Child Deserves a Great Education

John Oliver and PAA on Standardized Testing

Posted on May 05, 2015 by dmayer

For the record, John Oliver must be recognized for doing the reporting that seems to elude mainstream media. He nails standardized testing and the nasty profiteers that proliferate a horrible hoax on the American public at the expense of our children. The report begins with pep rallies being staged to celebrate the taking of the tests.

I cringe to think that at some time in the near future a video of me circa 1991, surrounded by my Indianapolis Public Schools colleagues leading a cheer for the ISTEP, will emerge.  It was a time before standardized tests determined the future lives of children, teachers, and schools — a time when a test was just a test — no high stakes. In those days, teachers sought to gain favor with their principals, and principals with administration, by championing THE TEST. We were all naive.

Nearly 25 years later, as tests have evolved into instruments used to facilitate student data collection, teacher evaluation, and school quality, we know the harm these tests can do. When John Oliver exposes the standardized test deception on an HBO comedy show, it’s time to say, “Enough is enough! We’re not going to give/take these stupid test anymore.!”

We can no longer use naiveté an excuse.

My friend — also a teacher, Mercedes Schneider, who blogs prolifically at Deutsch 29, recently posed this question: Opting Out Interfering with the “Civil Right” of Testing?  She provides contexts for the bigger picture that encompasses high stakes standardized testing:

As I write this post, I have in front of me my permanent education record from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is by way of an unusual set of circumstances that I have this file. The short of it is that the records clerk at the first high school I taught at gave it to me in 1992.

It includes my standardized test scores for grades K, 1, and 4-8.

Yes. I took standardized tests beginning in kindergarten. My first was the Metropolitan Readiness Test, Form B (1973). It assessed my readiness for first grade, in six areas: word meaning, listening, matching, alphabet, numbers, and copying.

My teacher used it to help determine whether I should advance to first grade.

The test was not misused to grade my teacher or school.

None of the other six tests were used to grade my teachers or my school. They were used for diagnostic purposes related to my education.

My tests were not used to make me feel bad about myself by way of expected failure rates publicized in the media. My test results were not manipulated by those who possessed the political power to set any cut scores. There were no cut scores. There was no media hype surrounding my testing. There was no need for my parents to be concerned about my emotional well being due to any punitive consequences that might befall me. I was not worried that my scores could be used to fire my teachers or close my school.

There was no need for my parents to consider opting me out of testing.

Those days do not reflect the testing-pressure-cooker reality of 2015.

Coincidentally, at the same time John Oliver presented his bittersweet expose and Mercedes wrote her fantastic blog post, Parents Across America published its position paper against Common Core, SBAC, and PARCC complete with Common Core Basics and annotated references. Add it to your arsenal of resources to opt your child out of high stakes standardized tests.

While editors at the Oregonian continue to serve up platitudes to its readers, a comedian invites us to digest the evidence surrounding high stakes standardized testing.

President George W. Bush in just his third day in office announced his No Child Left Behind program. It passed Congress with bipartisan support because of course it did. Voting against No Child Left Behind is like voting against No Puppy Left Unsnuggled.

It’s a false conundrum. Enjoy.

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