Friday, April 21, 2017

Standardized Test Bubble to Pop?





By Professor Doom

      “Fill in the bubble” tests have been a fact of life in our government-run school system for a generation or two now. I certainly remember taking them every few years, and then the biggie, the SAT, in my last year of high school.

     Like everything government-run (see also: vaccinations), the bureaucracy has imposed ever more burdens on the victims trapped in the system. Students in government controlled schools now begin their year with a government mandated pre-test, end the year with a post-test, take a skills test every year in grades 3 through 8, and also another such test in high school. And now there’s the PARCC test, one more comprehensive high stakes test that means absolutely nothing for the student.

      Oh, in addition to all these bureaucracy-imposed tests (which can’t count for a grade, due to the wait times involved from the bureaucratic grading system), students also have to deal with the “normal” tests, quizzes, and assignments in their classes. All those standardized government tests assume the test-takers actually give a damn about tests which don’t matter for a grade, even though the test-takers obviously have to decide whether to study for the useless test, or the assignments that count for something. They need a bit of motivation, right? 

      How do you motivate students? By making the tests “high stakes.” But as test after test after test is stacked up on the student, convincing students every test is “the most important test, EVER” gets ever more difficult.

     One question never asked about all this is the profit motive for these tests. There’s big, big, money in testing. I, and many academics I suppose, have made money setting up test banks and submitting questions and such…but the testing companies make bank on this. We have what, 100,000,000 kids trapped in our schools? Charge $5 a test and that’s half a billion dollars…subtract off the hundreds of bucks you need to hire a professor to make the problems, the million dollars you need to bribe the government official to enforce yet another “high stakes” test, a few hundred thousand collecting (the schools pay the mailing costs, because it’s high stakes) and grading (all Scantron, so pretty quick and easy) and the profit margin here is pretty huge. 

      Seriously, I bid the gentle reader to think about this. We've been burying our kids in standardized tests for at least a generation now, and not one single improvement to education can be attributed to these tests. On the other hand, the testing companies have made many billions, a tiny fraction of which is given to our educrats to have them mandate more tests. It’s really no wonder we keep getting more of these, the wonder is why nobody is asking about all this, but I digress…

     The students are catching on that all these high stakes tests are, well, bullsh*t. It doesn’t matter in the slightest how they perform, and wasting time studying for bogus “high stakes” tests cuts into time studying for tests that actually count for something.

      I’ve mentioned the SAT (or ACT) as important, but they’ve dropped off a bit. You used to need to do well on these to get into a “good” school, but the proliferation of open admissions policies even at what used to be good schools have made these largely irrelevant to most students.

      On the other hand, AP Exams have risen in importance. Doing well on these exams means free college credit—doing well on these can save students thousands of dollars in college tuition and months of their lives as well. The best the student can hope for by doing well on a “high stakes” test is their teacher not getting fired a year after the student graduates from high school (I’m serious, most high stakes test don’t impact the student at all, but can impact the school or teacher involved quite a bit).

      Students are, justifiably, opting out of taking/studying for these pointless tests which would otherwise take up a huge amount of their time.

As parents, community leaders and school officials puzzled over the precipitous drop in standardized test scores at one of the District’s leading public high schools, Emma Buzbee had a logical explanation.

Buzbee, a senior at Wilson High School, said she and other high-performing students either refused to take the test or intentionally flubbed it to focus on Advanced Placement tests, which were given the following week.

--sorry to quote a fake news source, but it jives with what my friends in the government education system tell me.


     Now, like everything government, students are forced to take the test…they’re just not forced to study. So, we do see falling student test scores on the government standardized tests, but we probably shouldn’t panic that much about it. By the time our students take their high school “high stakes” tests, they’ve taken around 30 of these tests, and have never received any benefit for it, have never seen a school benefit for it, have never seen a teacher benefit for it…how can we blame students for not doing well on a completely pointless exercise?

Ellen Leander said her son, who is now a junior at Wilson, answered a few questions on his PARCC exam and then walked out because he didn’t want to miss a chemistry lab.

--Ellen’ son is lucky. Most schools absolutely force their students to take the test, force the taxpayers to increase the revenue to the testing company. It’s a shame people don’t know what fascism really is anymore…


     As the above indicates, you can have a really good student failing the high stakes test because…he just doesn’t give a damn, he’s got better things to do.

     Like most government-induced problems, the solution is easy: stop with all the mandatory tests. Let’s just keep the tests that are only being taken by students that actually are trying to do well…we can use AP and SAT test scores as a measure of what our students are learning, the ones that at least care to learn. Yes, the SAT scores are still dropping (even with dumbing down the tests), but at least we know the students are trying, which means the evidence there is worth something. 

      All we can learn from students doing well on mandatory pointless tests like PARCC is that we’re still doing a terrible job of educating our students: even after being suckered dozens of times to put effort into obvious lies like “high stakes” testing, they get suckered yet again. 

      Of course, the taxpayers are also getting suckered into paying for this crud, so maybe we should have a test for that, as well…meanwhile, the kids are figuring out what a scam these tests are, best I can hope for is they’ll remember it when they’re adults.