Opinion: Schools need to Improve, not Tests

BBV logoA recent response to the Nation’s Report Card results by the Obama Administration calls for a reduction of redundant tests, in order to improve the nation’s scores in reading and mathematics. Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, believes that this action is “an unfortunate and tragically oversimplified response to the challenges facing our schools — challenges made plain by U.S. test results released Wednesday, which show that students have lost ground in math for the first time since 1990.

Core Education Blogged about it here: Guidelines to Reduce Over-Testing.

Mr. Bloomberg states several reasons for his belief that this is an inappropriate response. One is that parents and other stakeholders should know what their children are learning. They should be allowed to compare schools to select where to invest in placing their children for education. These results should be published for all racial and ethnic groups as well, in order for parents to make a more informed decision on where to move or send their student. He states: That’s why accurate information on student learning is so crucial — and like it or not, high-quality testing is an essential element of that.

Mr. Bloomberg also believes, accurately, that student-performance data used for accountability of schools and to drive school improvement, aligned with the Common core Standards, are working. He writes: Now that results from tests aligned to these standards are showing just how many students are not on track for college, the public backlash against the tests seems to have given Obama and Duncan a case of cold feet. That’s deeply regrettable.

Bloomberg makes the case instead for keeping the tests in place and not reducing them because testing is a part of life. He argues: the argument that teachers spend too much time “teaching to the test” misses the crucial point: When curriculum and instruction are aligned with high-quality tests, as they often are in Advanced Placement classes, classroom work will prepare students for success.

In summary, Bloomberg’s main points seem to be that testing is good for data on student-performance, should inform instruction, should not be gotten rid of due to over-emphasis and loss of instructional time, but should be used as a quality check on good instruction and help shape policies to come. His conclusion? The Common Core and other tough new standards adopted by states, along with the tests aligned to them, are exposing just how far our schools need to go. We ought to embrace that challenge, and make it a national mission to meet it in the near future.

For more information, see Demand Better Schools, Not Fewer Tests