Unethical Testing

To mandate the use of standardized testing “not in accord with the standards of a profession” is driving unethical testing practices. Ignorance on this manner is no excuse. Stupidity of the drivers of “education reform” is not acceptable. Outright political, monetary, and ideological motives of those pushing yearly standardized testing — in federal law — stinks to high heaven.

Where is the leadership on testing?

Ethical testing-industry professionals follow a code that provides guidelines for what is considered “fair” including “the recommended uses” and the necessity for understanding “the strengths and limitations of the test” (Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education, 2004). THAT is not what this country is doing.

In the thirteen years of federally mandated yearly standardized testing, did testing prove itself to be worth the time, money, and effort? PROOF? What proof?

We hit the mark - scores. End result? Scores without skills.

We hit the mark – “proficiency” scores inched up. End result? Scores without skills. NCLB was changed to ESSA but the MANDATE for unethical testing stayed in federal law.

If a practice is “not guided by or showing a concern for what is right,” then by definition, it is unethical. Unethical testing was allowed to go forward and be perpetuated through both state and federal laws in a game of policy Ping-Pong that mesmerized the public and lulled them into agreement.

Isn’t it time to follow a Code of Ethics in education? Isn’t it the expectation we should set for all education professionals?

It’s amusing when a fictional pirate makes light of a code of ethics; it’s not at all funny when ignoring the Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education limits your child’s opportunity to learn. Limits on the curriculum were a direct and indirect result of unethical testing mandated by federal education law that cemented the practices in place for 13 years under No Child Left Behind. (Longer now because the unethical testing went unchanged when NCLB morphed into ESSA.)

The focus of No Child Left Behind yearly standardized testing in math and language arts was the pinnacle of the problem with that law. It is not changed in the Senate version called “The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.” The Senate vote is set for April 14th.

The consent of the People is in our silence. If the idea of “unethical testing” is unfamiliar to you, you are not alone. Ignorance is more common than stupidity or corruption. But ignorance can be fixed. So can federal education law.

Accountability Where It Matters Most

Shouldn’t we be accountable for providing quality learning opportunities to all children? Shouldn’t we be asking for accountability where it matters most? Aren’t we – the public – responsible for doing that?

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) “believes that individuals are accountable first to those directly affected by their actions and second to all other interested parties. Thus science teachers are accountable primarily to students and parents.” (SPECIAL NOTE: This author holds the same basic position as the NSTA but believes we should be using “standards-referenced” NOT “standards-based” as a guiding principle. See Standards & Their Use for clarity.)

With the promise to finally “fix” No Child Left Behind, we really need to think this through.

How do we know students are learning what they need to know and be able to do?

Tests, assessments, measures of student achievement and performance…we measure students in multiple ways yet we should have figured out by now that higher scores on standardized tests do not equate to the quality of learning. That’s where the public needs to understand that it is “systemic” accountability we want and there are many layers!

In a perfect system, the teacher is a highly educated and trained individual, the teaching environment is healthy, safe, and conductive to learning, the objectives are clear, the teacher has all the materials to do the job, and the students are prepared to learn.

Assessing the student becomes simple. There are student-learning objectives that the 4c7866fd6a1029fa8037bad0e1e29877teacher evaluates the student against – called “formative” testing. Teachers use the information to assess what the student did or did not learn and adjust instruction to meet the needs of the student – becoming “accountable” to the student – being responsible for doing their job.

Other measures depend on the grade level and intended use. There are end-of-course exams that many of us probably recall as being “final” exams – called “summative” assessments. And there are other standardized achievement tests that can be used to assess trends.

So, at the student level isn’t it enough to have…

♦Teacher-created formative assessments of standards-aligned student learning objectives,

♦End-of-course exams, subject specific tests, or school or district summative assessments as necessary to address any problem areas identified, and

♦Standardized achievement tests given at transition points (grade-span testing, 4th, 8th, 12th grades) as an oversight?

At the student level, if parents are comfortable with this amount of assessment of their child and have confidence in their teacher’s ability to judge their student, is it fair or even reasonable for the public to demand more testing of students? The views of students and parents should matter.

Inequality Was Studied

The results of school segregation were studied.

The results of school segregation were studied.

As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a national survey on inequality was commissioned to assess the degree of segregation of students and teachers, and its relationship to student achievement. The findings were discussed in a report titled Equality of Educational Opportunity by lead researcher James S. Coleman.

The study used “indicators of educational quality” to determine whether schools offer equal educational opportunity. Researchers looked at both “school inputs” such as curriculum, facilities, practices, and teacher and student characteristics as well as “outputs” as judged by standardized achievement tests. They did so with the warning that a “statistical survey can give only fragmentary evidence” of a school environment.

Looking inside "the box."

Looking inside “the box.”

This research model is called “an education production function or input-output model.” It is the type of model economists use to assess “how an economic process works in a particular firm.” It “allows for aggregate analysis without requiring an examination of the details of what happens within a particular firm or school.”

The dominate “take-aways” frequently quoted from The Coleman Report  are:

1) family background and socioeconomic status have more effect on student achievement than school resources, and
2) that disadvantaged blacks show higher achievement in racially mixed schools.

The first fed the “funding has little effect on achievement” argument and the second led to forced busing to racially integrate schools which produced the unintended consequence of “white flight.”

The overlooked or forgotten finding was the “pupil attitude factor which appears to have a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the school factors together, is the extent to which an individual feels that he has some control over his own destiny…” This is largely a consequence of a person’s experience in the larger society” and is “not independent of his experience in school.”

What happens in schools and communities matters? School climate and culture matters?

Part 2 of ten blogs on The Road to Educational Quality and Equality that started with The March Begins.