Twisted Validity: Guilting Parents to “Opt” Kids to Test in Order to Save Teachers and School
Test validity concerns how well a test measures what it is actually supposed to measure.
As such, student achievement tests should be confined to measuring student achievement– not for grading teachers and schools. It really is that simple.
The validity issue has been completely ignored with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and with the Obama/Duncan NCLB waivers, and with both Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorizations currently in the House and Senate.
All of this works for those wielding the high-stakes-testing power wand and raking in financial rewards because of what I will term “the compartmentalized beauty for ed reform.” Here is how it works related to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) assessment appendage, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test:
1. PARCC assessment vendor, Pearson, can make a test and call it a student assessment based upon CCSS.
2. Federal or state legislation can mandate that the student assessment scores are to be used to measure individuals who do not complete the tests, such as teachers, or even entities, such as schools.
3. The likes of Pearson can offer individualized score reports; consolidated reports on schools, districts, states, or even the entire (dwindling) PARCC consortium. And since test companies like Pearson are not offering reports that directly pass judgment on non-testers (teachers, schools), then even though these companies know that their individualized student tests are to be used to pass high-stakes judgment on non-testers, they need not pay any attention to it.
4. Those wielding test driven reform (lawmakers, policy pushers) are not readily held responsible for violating test validity because if stupidity is written into the law, that somehow makes the violation non-existent.
5. Meanwhile, the actual test takers– the students– have undue pressure placed on them to carry both teacher careers and school destinies upon their young backs.
You see, in our little American education top-down “reform” hierarchy, as one goes down the chain and moves farther away from the non-classroomed– the legislators, policy opiners, and education profiteers– responsibility increases and power decreases. In the case of test-score-driven reform, the student is at the lowest level of this chain and is therefore the most susceptible to abuse for having incredible (dysfunctional) responsibility for “making” the system “work.”
Only just above the student is the teacher: Lots of responsibility, little power in this ed reform lunacy. Then above the teacher are the school-based admin; then, the local admin, and next, state admin.
And let us not forget the coercive, federal role in holding its funding to states hostage as part of this damaging chain.
In this test-score-dependent hierarchy, those higher on chain (e.g., state, local, and school-based administrators, and even teachers) can add to pressure to those lower on the chain (the lowest being students– and the pressure often funneled from admin to parents).
One way is by piling the guilt to “carry the fates” of teachers and schools upon those little backs.
Consider this letter from the Beauregard Parish School System (Louisiana). It is a prime example of a warped system of “accountability” in which the child is forced to carry the fates of adults.
Be sure to read it closely (click to magnify):
The language of the above “opt out” letter is a study in the structural damage to American public education introduced in 2002 by a wrecking ball NCLB swinging back our way via continued-test-driven, proposed ESEA reauth bills in both House and Senate.
I’m still watching for the legislation that requires testing companies to print a validity “guarantee” that their student tests are suited to measure teachers and schools before said tests could be considered in any state that would use the tests for such purposes.
Now that would be a “test-based accountability” likely to curtail the top-down testing obsession.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.