A Test for the Education Establishment

Unsurprisingly, many invested in the current education system object to proposals to tie graduation to discrete, measurable testing requirements:

Dozens of speakers last night said they were worried about a provision that would make the English and math scores of statewide standardized tests students take at the start of 11th grade count toward one-third of their graduation requirements. The scores would also appear on students’ official transcripts for colleges and employers to see. Currently the scores of the New England Common Assessment Program account for 10 percent of graduation requirements and do not appear on transcripts.
The other two-thirds of students’ graduation requirements would include completing 20 or more rigorous courses and passing “performance-based graduation requirements” such as portfolios or senior projects, which are required for this year’s graduating class.

No doubt, there are myriad professionals and parents who have good reason to be worried about the possibility that tests for which they are leaving children unprepared would actually, you know, matter. If that were the case, then they couldn’t fudge their answers to the crisis, suggesting increases expenditures, begging for more time, noting isolated advances. They’d have to face thousands of children who have been cheated out of their educations and must carry that burden well into their adult lives.

Some educators questioned why state education officials seemed to be embracing “high-stakes testing,” when the state has worked for the past several years to develop an entirely different method of preparing students for college and work.

The answer is that nobody trusts the current system’s practitioners to get it right. “‘Proficiency-based’ projects” ought simply to be part of curricula, and giving “students multiple ways to show they have mastered skills and knowledge” sounds a bit too much like a loophole through which to adjust the test to match each student’s natural talents, minimizing the amount of material that must actually be mastered. The matter of schooling is too important to allow years of tweaks yielding modest increases in the 1% of students who are “proficient with distinction” and 22% who are “proficient” in basic math by eleventh grade.

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