11 March 2007

Standardized Testing and Educational Goals

Ask a community what goals are important. What is it that matters most in life? You'd likely get answers like
  1. self-esteem,
  2. healthy relationships,
  3. ability to hold a job,
  4. having a sense of spiritual well-being and optimism,
  5. feeling healthy,
  6. contributing to others,
  7. volunteering,
  8. community service,
  9. politics,
  10. mentoring,
  11. finding flow in work or hobbies,
  12. making friends,
  13. finding a life partner,
  14. starting a business
  15. investing money
  16. raising happy children who become responsible adults,
  17. etc.
  18. etc.

You'd likely have some argument about the relative importance of these and invariably there would be some goals that some people would denigrate as unimportant and others that some people would insist are all that matters. But within communities represented by most school districts, you'd likely find great consistency in the top ten items.

So my question is this: what do standardized tests have to do with any of these goals? How does concentrating on raising test scores in any way raise the probability that people will be more likely to have success with attaining the items on the above list (or any list like it)? And why would we make kids spend 13+ years in school preparing for life without preparing them to successfully attain the items listed above?

It simply baffles me that our school systems aren't focused more directly on helping people with what matters in life. It it baffles me even more that standardized tests have become a proxy for those things.

Never in history has there been greater diversity in how people make a living or live their lives. Never in history has there been a greater emphasis on standardized testing as a measure of learning. How did this happen?


Anonymous said...

Because I grew up watching cartoons every Saturday morning, the first thing I thought of was this.

The problem is that people want "accountability," but they don't want to put forth any effort themselves. They'll look at standardized test scores, but can't be bothered to attend PTA meetings. The same people loudly clamoring for "vouchers" have never voted in a school board election in their lives. They'll tearfully proclaim that "children are our future," then turn on the TV and walk away.

(Pretty cynical comment, considering I started with a cartoon.)

Ron Davison said...

Cynical? Maybe just honest.
My wife teaches and it amazes me the extent to which administrators expect teachers to compensate for bad parenting.