August 17, 2011

Why high stakes testing is all about money

Today, I received correspondence in my school e-mail inbox from a company, promising to increase student achievement on our state-mandated standardized test.

For the small price of $1,495, Coach Publishing declares, I can plop my students on computers and have them take practice test after practice test. Oh, but there's more: for my slightly-less-than-$1,500 investment, the company will also give me real-time test results and customized skills practice.

If one wonders why it's so difficult to get bureaucrats -- the same ones who blame teachers for the problems in education -- to understand what's wrong with high stakes testing, there is no better evidence than this. Politics is about lobbyists, and education has no bigger lobby than the opportunists who keep producing these useless test-taking programs at exorbitant prices.

Let's see, for $1,500, I could purchase 400-700 paperback novels. If I do nothing more than put the books in my students hands and tell them to read all year, they will still outperform their peers, who use software systems, like the one referenced above.

It doesn't matter, though, because high stakes testing is a big money business. So, while the testing lobby makes billions, our students suffer.