T.C. Weber reminds us that this whole standardized testing thing is a bit of a charade. The only people who really benefit are politicians and bureaucrats.

The test is given in April, yet results don’t arrive until mid-September, way past time to impact students. Students are robbed of valuable instructional time to administer tests, and research has widely shown that the tests typically reflect socio-economic conditions. On top of it all, wide-scale standardized testing is an expensive proposition.

Big testing is a big business.

As a business, those that cashed the checks from the state education departments and individual school districts were undoubtedly aware that it couldn’t last forever. When sales of supplementary materials began drying up, new products were developed. They milked an old cow in one barn while raising a calf in the other.

Hence the development and increased implementation of screeners (assessments).

In Tennessee, screeners have been in place for quite some time as part of RTI legislation. All districts have long been required to administer a screener in math and English/Language Arts to students 3x a year. In the past, the districts set the assessment calendar and didn’t share the data. This year, that changed.

New legislation requires districts to continue to assess, or screen, three times a year, but now the TN Dept. of Ed. sets the schedule, and districts must turn the data over to the state within two weeks of testing. The state has even crafted a designated universal screener that they will pay for if local districts adopt it.

So, if we have brand new, up-to-date data, why are we celebrating a school’s Reward status based on a test administered six months ago? If our goal is to make data-driven decisions, shouldn’t we also commit to using the most current data available?

Weber reminds us that we don’t plan our family’s Fall dinner meals based on the kids’ tastes in April.

Remember, these Reward designations were based on a test given amid a pandemic that forced schools to deliver instruction in unprecedented ways. Legislators also placed a “hold harmless” designation on data generated in the pandemic year. In other words, the data could benefit a district but not hurt it.

If you can’t create circumstances where measurements can be assured for accuracy and a true reflection of negative outcomes, how can you ensure they are accurate and reflective of positive outcomes?

In a year where the Commissioner and the Governor have continued to loudly whine about “learning loss,” how have the state’s most challenged schools experienced unprecedented success?

What was done to deliver that success, and what is being done to maintain it? If some of these schools exited the “bad list” due to other schools doing worse, what is there to ensure that they don’t just get re-designated once schools start to recover?

Let’s not take away anything from districts recognized by the Reward list. But, any school that showed up last year, and continues to show up this year, deserves recognition as a “Reward School.”

The bottom line is, assessments should not have been given last year. They provide no new pertinent information, and no matter how “hold harmless” the intent was, results were used to create a list of “winners” and “losers,” something I’m sure was never the intent of lawmakers.

In Tennessee, we could get rid of the Big Test, with very few issues. It hasn’t been properly administered for at least five years. The test has been regularly changed over the last decade, so it’s not like we have a data set that has any fidelity. And progress monitoring is already in place with local districts.

However, the cows still need milking.

(h/t TC Weber, Dad Gone Wild)

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