Friday, November 14, 2014

Could grade inflation have "helped" lead us to this testing mania?

 *  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]."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Opting Out May be Education's Only Option

Hopefully the opt-out movement is (finally...) reaching a critical mass.  Large-scale (200 students) walkouts in Colorado and a recent article in the New York Times highlighting the grotesquely wasteful (ab)use of standardized tests are starting to make waves.  (I would have liked to see the NYT article go into more detail on the opportunity costs--60 to 80 days spent on testing per year!?!--of these tests, as I attempted to here.)  I see opting-out as the only real solution at this point, since both Republicans and Democrats have proven themselves to be utterly worthless (see:  No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top).

1.  Opting out devastates the school's ranking, especially if the good kids opt out.  (I hope/assume that this was encouraged by these high-achieving students and/or their parents.)  This in turn pressures the school board to do something--preferably/hopefully dropping these asinine ranking systems and in turn, their tests.

2.  As more students opt out, the easier it is to see the data being collected is not good data.  Hopefully people start to realize they're spending billions of dollars collecting data that's between dubious and worthless, again pressuring school boards--already strapped for cash--to jettison these tests.