What’s wrong with standardized testing…this month?

I’m talking with Dick Kay on WCPT this afternoon about standardized testing.

Tune in to 820 AM, or 92.5 FM (west side of Chicago) 92.7 FM (north) or 99.9 FM (south). Apparently you can also live stream the show here:

Here are some of the topics I hope we’ll be able to cover:

Testing fake facts? There’s a new, racist version of the fake test facts scandal that PURE broke last year, when we exposed a Scantron reading question that was obvious, and falsified, propaganda for charter schools.

The reading passage for that question included this statement: “Multimillionaire Charles Mendel sends his children to a charter school because he believes that that charter schools deliver the highest quality education.” Problem is, there is no such person. Other “facts” in the passage about charter schools were also false.

This month, CPS students have been taking REACH performance exams, which are standardized tests used to measure teacher effectiveness. Students were given REACH pre-tests in the fall, and their “progress” – and part of their teachers’ evaluations – will be determined by the results from these spring tests.

REACH tests are supposedly written by teams of CPS teachers. I say supposedly, because it is hard to imagine that any of our teachers had a hand in the poisonous, idiotic test that showed up on the REACH web site for spring administration.

The test asks students to respond to two commentaries on immigration, both rabidly anti-immigrant and both written by “authorities” who don’t exist. Students are asked, among other things, to decide who is the more “authoritative” of the two fake pundits.

CPS has pulled the test off the site, but still allows the test to be used. They have attempted to excuse the bias by explaining that last fall’s “pre-test” consisted of two pro-immigration essays, so this was a “balance.” OK. Sure.

Keeping in mind that “progress” is determined by the change in student performance from the fall to the spring test and that a large percentage of CPS students are immigrants or children of immigrants, what results do you think CPS expects here?

Trick or test?: As I pointed out on Dick Kay’s show last time, standardized tests are designed for one primary purpose – to rank and sort the test-takers. 50% will always “fail” the test. And the “failures” will more likely be low-income children of color. The test makers guarantee these results by using trick questions, or, more exactly, including what they call a “distractor” answer among the four choices for some questions, that is, an answer that seems sort of right but is not the “wanted” answer.

Read more in my blog post, “Stupid PARCC Tricks” about how Common Core tests are just more of the same. I shared an example from Chris Ball’s presentation at our last More Than a Score forum, of a third grade vocabulary question where the “wanted” definition of the word “cross” is not even listed as a synonym for that word.

There are more examples of tricky test questions in an e-mail I received from a former teacher who was responding to my appearance on Dick Kay’s show earlier this month. You can read her letter in my blog post, “Educators speak out against testing.”

That post also quotes from a recent Tribune letter to the editor by former CPS assessment head Carole L. Perlman, criticizing the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers.

Louis C.K. and the Common Core: Of course, the trendiest testing issue this month has been Louis C.K.’s Twitter attack on the Common Core.

10,000 people liked this tweet: “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!”

Read more of Louis’s tweets in this article from Diane Ravitch, who wrote:

Don’t underestimate what Louis C.K. accomplished. He was able to break through the carefully crafted narrative that had been spun by Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, and other advocates for the new standards. He spoke as a father, not a comedian. What he wrote was not funny. His celebrity gave him a platform. His standing as a parent of public school children gave him credibility.

Leave a Comment