Valerie Strauss v. me on tests
I didn't intend to pick a fight with my blogging wonder of a colleague Valerie Strauss, but she wouldn't let go of the issue. (I least that is what I would tell my mom if this were the playground and not the world's finest Web site.) Valerie says the standardized tests we use now are too unreliable to tolerate. I don't like them that much myself, but I still think they are useful, and don't see Valerie providing any evidence on her side.
The standardized test results I have seen over the last 30 years seem to conform with what I would expect from what I know of the quality of the teaching and the socio-economic level of the students being tested. McLean High in that wealthy community has higher test scores than Annandale High, which is in a less expensive part of Fairfax County with fewer parents who have graduated from college. Banneker High in D.C., which has a selective student body, does better on tests than Ballou, which does not.
Schools that have taken unusual measures to deepen and invigorate the learning of impoverished children, such as Achievement First, Uncommon schools and KIPP, show significantly better scores than schools that have not.
Those examples, and hundreds more, convince me that the tests we are using are much better than nothing, and shouldn't be dismissed as not worth using any more.
I would prefer more tests that required significant writing, like the AP and IB exams. I think they encourage better teaching. I like Richard Rothstein's suggestion that we experiment with school inspectors as they have in England, because I think well trained educators could give us a much deeper measure of different schools. But I have no idea if they would produce results any more useful than the ones we have now, if applied to all schools, because we haven't done much research on them yet. Using AP and IB as measures of test participation is a very good way to see which schools are trying hardest to challenge students, but that is not the same as looking at the test results to determine the quality of teaching.
In Vermont, they looked closely at results from measuring schools by the quality of student portfolios and found little difference from the results obtained through standardized tests. So I think it would be great if Valerie told us more of what she had in mind. What assessments does she want to use to replace the ones we have, and why does she think they would be better?
Also, if they are going to cost a lot more, might it be better to use that extra money to pay teachers more, and wait untill we find assessments that don't break the budget?
Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.
| March 15, 2010; 6:05 PM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: AP, IB, Valerie Strauss v. Jay Mathews, Vermont research, are standardized tests useless
Save & Share: Previous: How to handle students cheating
Next: LSAT: the devil's work?
Posted by: dlaufenberg | March 15, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Trev1 | March 15, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Trev1 | March 15, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: caxtontype1 | March 15, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: caxtontype1 | March 15, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: caxtontype1 | March 15, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jenny04 | March 16, 2010 6:25 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: qaz1231 | March 16, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 16, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 16, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | March 16, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | March 16, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: qaz1231 | March 16, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dlaufenberg | March 16, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Trev1 | March 17, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | March 17, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsallamack | March 17, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.