According to a new study, “The tests that are typically used to measure performance in education fall short of providing a complete measure of desired educational outcomes in many ways.”.
Beyond being ineffective at measuring student learning, these standardized testing programs (normally administered by states) have done little or nothing to improve scores on the national and international evaluations, the holy grail of education reformers.
The panelists – who include experts in assessment, education law and the sciences – examined over the past decade 15 incentive programs, which are designed to link rewards or sanctions for schools, students and teachers to students’ test results. The programs studied included high-school exit exams and those that give teachers incentives (such as bonus pay) for improved test scores.
The panel studied the effects of incentives, not by tracking changes in scores on high-stakes tests connected to incentive programs, but by looking at the results of “low-stakes” tests, such as the well-regarded National Assessment of Educational Progress, which aren’t linked to the incentives and are taken by the same cohorts of students.
The researchers concluded not only that incentive programs have not raised student achievement in the United States to the level achieved in the highest-performing countries but also that incentives/sanctions can give a false view of exactly how well students are doing. (The U.S. reform movement doesn’t follow the same principles that have been adopted by the other countries policymakers often cite.).
No study is conclusive proof of anything, especially when it comes to matters of teaching and learning.
However, this is just one of a growing body of research showing that our all-testing-all-the-time approach to American education, along withÂ charters, value-add teacher evaluation, merit pay, and other favorite “reforms” of politicians and billionaires, are ineffective at improving student learning, and a major waste of money and other resources.
So, are we ready yet to work on creating a genuinely new approach to public education, instead of ignoring the evidence and recycling old ideas that all the smart, rich people are sure will work?