Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Say what? Test scores ≠ Learning

I happened upon this Tweet of Dr. McLeod's that I couldn't help but elaborate on. Nationally, we have implemented a policy that mandates testing and ranks then punishes schools based on their results. In Iowa, we have (and still are) considering reforms and flashing waivers that have the same increase-scores goal as the law that they are aimed to get the state out of. The biggest obstacle to transforming education is that the people who have the power to allow or encourage change are surrounded by charts and graphs and numbers that claim to show which "evidence-based solutions" support "student achievement" or boost "student outcomes". No matter how it's told, virtsually every single bit of data that policymakers use to base decisions about education is tied to standardized test scores. This would be alright, except that multiple-choice questions can only go so far. Trust me, I've taken quite a few of them, and they are not capable of measuring the full breadth of true learning that students need in order to be successful. They are not representative of what I have experienced in at school and do not paint an accurate picture of what or how much I have learned. Standardized tests can only measure a small sliver of the skills and knowledge that I have accumulated after years in the classroom. By making this the basis of all our education decisions, we are adopting reforms that increase the traditional learning that everyone seems to decry because it no longer works in this world. So here's a newsflash for everyone that makes education decisions: test scores to not equate to authentic learning. In fact, increased test scores in some instances result in less learning because it means there was a greater focus on preparing for the test. Unless the tests are fundamentally redesigned, you can't have both, period. So what's it going to be? Are you going to do what makes you look good or work for a system that does what's best for students? Are we going to test the daylights out of me to get our bar a little bigger than everyone else's on some national assessment data graph, or are we going to move towards a system that rewards meaningful learning and develops critical, concerned, productive citizens?

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