* Note: I changed the title to be more clear. There is no one simple reason for how we got where we are.
While I can't stand the amount of time, tax dollars, and opportunity costs of all these standardized tests, there is one thing that has always gnawed at me--they are, sadly, somewhat relevant. Granted, they are way overdone, but as I have told my students in the past, with grade inflation, some--nowhere near as many as what we have*--standardized tests are needed. This article from Angelina Massoia puts it quite elegantly:
"By submitting to the culture of grade inflation, we empower the standardized test to 'accurately' represent us."
Part of the reason I believe that it's going to be hard to stop this testing madness is that to some small degree, the field of education itself is to blame. The article above notes that "about 43 percent" of all grades given in college are now an A. More importantly, it's far worse in education (image source):
This is hardly a surprise, I would hope; I'm sure there's plenty of other, older research (such as this, indicating "Education majors enjoyed grade point averages that were .5 to .8 grade points higher than students in the other college majors.").
Again, I am in no way advocating the testing mania. What I do believe/wonder is if the "reformers" and other test advocates may have been able to get their grip on our system due to grade inflation and if the Colleges of Education don't share some blame* (whoops, sorry again--I meant "accountability") for this. This article (again from Huffington) goes over the full study above in more detail. I take issue with it in that it should have made the distinction between "easy" and "academically rigorous." I can't say whether they are easy, having not been an ed. major but I am finishing up my 5th ed. course in <1 year. From this experience--and from what colleagues have told me of their own--I can say education majors are far from academically rigorous. (I dare say that even my regular chemistry class is far more academically challenging then they have been. Given the past 10+ years of our leaders' use of "rigor" as a buzzword, I find it rather hypocritical that they probably wouldn't recognize it if they saw it. Or be able to handle it. But those are subjects for another blog.)
* And let's be honest, this is being done to blame teachers and schools. Oh, wait, I'm sorry, I meant "Hold them accountable [if things go bad, otherwise, the reformers will take the credit]."