The high stakes of standardized tests
A sign on a bulletin board at P.S. 321 in Brooklyn, New York alerts parents and teachers about a forum on high-stakes standardized testing.
May 17th, 2012
06:29 AM ET

The high stakes of standardized tests

Listen to CNN Radio's podcast from Steve Kastenbaum about high-stakes standardized testing.

by Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

(CNN) Standardized tests are nothing new in public schools. Chances are you filled out bubbles on an answer form at some point during your schooling. But for the past few years, scores from statewide tests in English and math have been used to determine which schools are doing a good job of educating students and which are “failing.”

Today, the test results count for more than just a letter grade for a school. Teachers in some states are now being labeled good or bad based on their students’ scores.

Welcome to the world of high-stakes standardized testing.

“I find it the most absurd thing in the world. I don’t know anyone who thinks they’re valid,” said Principal Anna Allanbrook at Public School 146 in Brooklyn, New York. “So the morale is down because teachers are worried that people who don’t really know their work will make decisions about their jobs.”

Standardized tests have long been used as one measure of a student’s progress in core subjects. But now, federal funding hinges on test results. It started with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states to rate schools based on test results in order to receive federal funds.

President Obama’s administration then dangled an additional $4.3 billion dollars in front of school administrators in a competition called Race to the Top. In order to qualify for multi-million dollar grants, U.S. Department of Education spokesman Peter Cunningham said, states had to include test results in the process of identifying good and bad teachers.

“Some of those testing results need to be used to help identify schools that are struggling so that we can give them additional interventions, but they also need to be part of how we evaluate teachers,” said Cunningham.

Across the country, teachers, principals and parents are pushing back against the test results carrying so much weight. More than 1,400 New York principals signed onto a letter to the state education commissioner that said the tests are deeply flawed. The outgoing Education Commissioner in Texas called standardized testing “the heart of the vampire.” Jenny LaCoste-Caputo of the Texas Association of School Administrators said, “This one test has become the single measure for a student’s success, for a school’s success, and that’s what is absolutely wrong.”

The idea that test scores should be considered when evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness grew out of a desire to reform education systems across the country. But Cunningham said the Department of Education never intended for the test scores to be the only measure by which teachers are judged.

“Absolutely not. We actually call for multiple measures. We believe that testing should only be one measure of a teacher’s effectiveness, not the whole measure by any means.” Cunningham said principal observation, as well as feedback from peers, parents and students, should be taken into consideration, too.

Fifth graders at P.S. 146 in Brooklyn, N.Y. took statewide tests in English and math on May 16, 2012. Their test scores will be used to rate their teacher's performance.

Fifth graders at P.S. 146 in Brooklyn, N.Y. took statewide tests in English and math on May 16, 2012. Their test scores will be used to rate their teacher's performance.

Diane Ravitch is a historian of American Education at New York University. She said the intention may not have been for test scores to count for so much. But that’s what seems to be happening in school systems across the country.

“So now we have schools being closed and people getting bonuses all around the student test scores,” said Ravitch. “It’s made testing, somehow, the central activity of American public schools today, which is just so wrong.”

Ravitch believes standardized tests provide important feedback on individual students which helps teachers meet the needs of those children. But when high stakes are attached to standardized tests, Ravitch said the tests become corrupted. “People cheat. We’ve seen major cheating scandals in both Atlanta, Georgia, and Washington, D.C, but in many other districts as well,” said Ravitch.

Some educators blame the testing industry for the elevated importance of standardized testing. There are four companies that publish the majority of school tests in the U.S. Kimberly O’Malley is a vice president at Pearson Education. She said the tests aren’t created in a vacuum. Some teachers are involved in every step of the process.

“We invite educators and assessment experts and they go question by question, evaluating and asking directly ‘does this question measure what it is supposed to measure,’” said O’Malley. “’Does it do a good job of measuring it? Is it fair? Is it free from bias?’”

They then try out the tests with a sample group of students, evaluate the results, and make changes as need. O’Malley agrees that test scores alone can’t paint a complete picture of what is going on in a classroom. “The standardized test is just that one day snapshot at the end that then gets combined with that rich local information about how students have done all year,” said O’Malley.

That may be the case, but at P.S. 321 in New York Principal Liz Phillips said teachers, administrators and parents all feel that too much is riding on the results of the tests.

“If I believed that this system actually could show you who the great teachers were and who the terrible teachers were that would be another story,” said Phillips. “It doesn’t say that at all.”

At the U.S. Department of Education, Cunningham isn’t surprised by the pushback. He said change is not an easy thing. “I think we’re all going to learn from it and they’re going to continue to adapt and approve upon it,” said Cunningham. “But ultimately, the outcome here that we are all trying to get is that teachers and administrators have a real sense of who is succeeding and who is not succeeding.”

Eleven states and Washington D.C. were awarded grants through the Race to the Top program. New York State received $700 million. If standardized testing wasn’t a part of teacher evaluation, New York would not have gotten that money.

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Filed under: NCLB • Podcast • Policy • Practice • Race to the Top • Testing
soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Wondering

    Parents are the most important teachers in a child's life

    May 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Grits

      That is so true.

      May 27, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  2. evilvonscarry

    Why is it that industrialists seem to think they have the need to change the education system? Gates is just another modern day Carnegie or Rockefeller. Ever wonder where the work place standard of 2 -15 minute breaks (ie recess) and the "lunchbreak" or "homework" for those who
    want to advance came from? The idea of going to "the office" when your in trouble or getting an award for being a good sheep. The school bell summoning worker bee's back to task? This is why Bill wants this, he want's to control the new indoctrination also known as public education.
    http://evilvonscarry.blogspot.ca/2011/01/so-when-did-american-dream-turn-into.html

    May 23, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  3. mojefa

    The idea that the results of a single test during the school year accurately measures a teacher's performance is ludicrous. The idea that the results of a single test during the school year accurately measures a student's academic achievement is even more ludicrous.

    The fact is: classrooms are over-crowded, teachers are underpaid, and parents are so busy working or doing their own thing to pay close enough attention to what their children are or are not doing–including acedemic study.

    A student comes home with a poor or failing grade and the parents are surprised. Surprised! Why? Why weren't you paying attention? Because you should have been, and if you were, then you wouldn't have been surprised. You could have nipped it in the bud and HELPED your child.

    Parents think it's the teacher's responsiblity to teach their children. I don't dispute that. But it's definitely a parent's responsibility to pick up 50% of that effort.

    May 21, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Denise

      Thank you! I could not have said it any better.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Jorge

      Teachers are actually overpaid if you take into account the results they produce. We four times as much on education as we did over 30 years ago and the results aren't four times better. Public schools along with teachers unions are a curse upon our educational system.

      May 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  4. old gaffer

    this is a classic dilemma in industry where management tries to "inspect in" quality (stds of learning tests), without either sending defective product back for rework (failing under-performing students), or rejecting incoming defective material (sending students back who don't meet minimum levels of achievement).

    This is the entirely predictable outcome of the SOL testing, loaded onto the back of a social agenda of "every one is the same" . The fact may well be that everyone is deserving of equal opportunity, but it is clearly NOT a fact that everyone will achieve equal results given that opportunity. Equal is not the same as identical, and unless and until the so-called adults in public education administration acknowledge that basic fast, billions of education dollars, and millions of children are going to be wasted in pursuit of a false and unachievable dream.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Ms. Fury

      Agreed! No matter how high the standards are raised, someone will always fail. True, no one wants to be last, but when you have a "race to the top" someone will always be last. The language of these educational initiatives doesn't even promote equality, yet they sure are doing their darnedest to socialize education.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Leigh K

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a public school teacher, I can say for a fact that those within the system do NOT want us to actually say this out loud ... even though we all know it.

      May 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  5. Dad_to_3

    Normally I don't post but this subject definitely strikes a chord with me. Several years ago our family moved from the desert south west to the mid west. At the time I had one of my children in elementary school go from honor role to failing within the course of a month. My child went from loving school to screaming and crying fits begging not to go. The class was based on wrote memorization of the 'facts' that would be on the state testing. All classwork was either multiple choice or fill in the blank style questions as 'that's what would be on the test' The children were allowed one 30 minute break during a seven and a half hour school day as it was 'too hard to get them settled down' after they were brought back inside. When I sat down with the teacher, Vice-Principal, and Principal; we were told and I quote "We don't give a dam if your child learns, as long as they can pass the test." The meeting went downhill from there and the school staff went out of their way to get my child suspended or expelled after I informed them that I was going to have my child intentionally fail their precious test.

    I do not have a problem with the idea of standardized testing; I do have an issue of how perverted the system has become to teach nothing other than the test. Life should be more than multiple choice. Imagine the furor it would cause if November's ballot for president had the following:

    A. Candidate 1
    B. Candidate 1
    C. Candidate 1
    D. All of the above

    Or possibly a choice of professions based on test scores:

    A. Ditch Digger
    B. Unskilled Construction Day Worker
    C. Homeless Panhandler

    I don't know about the first three choices, but I would bet that a person left with those choices would have their own thoughts of what they would like to do with their life to pencil in for choice D. This is not the case with the state of our current NCLB testing

    May 21, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  6. Charlie

    By defintion, half of all students and teachers are below average.

    May 21, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Jorge

      Actually, half are below the median.

      May 29, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  7. high school teacher

    We had a very intelligent student fail her high-stakes end-of-course Civics test because her boyfriend broke up with her the night before and she was upset. (She passed with flying colors on the retest, like she had passed all her benchmarks and the mock test.)

    It's not right to base teachers' performance on the whims of kids.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • k3np

      1. We aren't comparing apples to apples when comparing U.S. students to those in other countries, like Finland. In many countries, the best and brightest are kept in school, while others are moved into vocational training. Vocational training has been terribly devalued in this country, though some of it is lucrative, and it cannot be off-shored.

      2. Ravitch is right on so many points. Test preparation is now the central function of schools. Everything now rides on a single test. Teachers are forced to "teach to the test" now. Material that won't be on the test, valuable though it may be, becomes irrelevant. Many classrooms now have test "boot camps", where 2 to 4 weeks prior to the standardized test, the teachers drill students on material that will appear on the tests. Where is the value in that?

      3. Testing needs to be stratified over time. We've all experienced final exams, and those were by subject, usually broken up by semesters or quarters. Imagine that your final were dependent on one test at the end of 9 months of school. How fair would you think that final was, in assessing your understanding of the material?

      Rather than pinning everything on one day, the tests should be performed several times:
      * The first week of school, to benchmark each student's current level of understanding.
      * Mid-way through the school year, to evaluate progress from the original benchmark.
      * End of year, to evaluate progress from the mid-term.

      In addition to evaluating the base standard, (i.e. How does Michael's ability to perform 4th grade math operations compare with his peers?), apply a measure of progress to the score, (i.e. How much did Michael's math ability improve since he was last tested?).

      Of course, the above assumes that everyone agrees standardized testing is required. I'm not convinced that it is, at least in the way that it has currently been implemented.

      4. "Standardized" testing, by definition, does not account for individual differences. Pinning a student's yearly progress on "one day" of testing, literally a couple of hours for a single subject, is absurd. It's easy to perform below one's testing ability. A student could be under emotional duress. For example, consider a student who moves to a new school near the end of her school year. How well will she fare on standardized tests? Probably not as well as her peers. Does this mean their former or current teachers were inept?

      Students can be disadvantaged in so many ways. Standardized testing needs to take this into account. Stratifying the tests over time would help address this problem.

      5. One of the core assumptions behind standardized testing is that the public education system must prepare all students for college. I disagree with this assumption. I have a college degree, and my wife will complete her doctorate next year. We value education.

      The reality for 2012 is that the economics of a college degree no longer work for many professions. This especially applies to "liberal arts" college degrees. Most liberal arts graduates will shoulder college loan debt for the rest of their lives. More value needs to be placed on vocational training, medical training, technical training, internships, and on-the-job training.

      The above doesn't even get into the debate of whether testing actually tests the ability to think critically and apply acquired knowledge. One thing that I think we can all agree on, is that the system isn't working. The only way to fix it is to make changes.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:22 am |
      • Grits

        The only way to fix it is to do away with standardized tests.

        May 27, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • warren adams

      No, it is very unfair for students' test results to impact teachers' SALARY as is reported for the state of Florida. Did I say "unfair"? It's ludicrous and demoralizing!

      May 21, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  8. Parent of Two

    What is wrong with attempting to measure the results from teachers and schools? I suppose that we should simply go back to the way things were and not even attempt to see if the public schools are providing any positive results for the billions of dollars being poured into them. Every other employee has their work evaluated, why are teachers any different?

    May 21, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Kate

      Standardized testing leads to children being taught how to take a test, not how to think. Standardized testing also leads to insane pressure on the children and the teacher. How would you like your paycheck tied to how well 30 people take tests?

      Standardized testing limits what the child is taught. If it isn't "tested" it isn't taught. If you don't mind a child who has not had a wide exposure to knowledge, then standardized testing is for you. Yes we need a measure, but not this measure and not tied to someone's paycheck.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Grits

      Standardized tests are the wrong way to evaluate teachers.

      May 27, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • DrPhrogg

      Perhaps we need to start evaluating doctors based on the weight of their patients. The diabetes and early deaths caused by obesity are far more important than student testing. If more than 20% of a doctor's patients are more than 10% overweight, tested at the end of each year, that doctor should lose their license to practice. This makes more sense than evaluating teachers on the single event of high stakes testing, which is based on knowledge, parental involvement, teen hormones and angst, breakfast that morning, interference outside the classroom (lawn being mowed, roof being tarred) drug use, illness, family death of a relative or even of a pet, and so many other variables that teachers cannot control. At least obesity is a single measure.

      May 27, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  9. sheila

    Why is this such an issue? Teachers have to be degreed last I heard. It's not like they pull any old body off the street and train them to be teachers. I bet the numbers are too high. Everybody ought not pass it. Nor should a fairly smart student "fail" the test. So is somebody making mountains out of molehills because a few students at a school didn't do as good.

    May 21, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • hst

      & that's where you're incorrect. All you have to do is google alternative pathways to teaching - there are many and, as I mentioned in a statement below, some are in as little as 6 weeks. Some states are able to hire w/ no training whatsoever & teachers "learn on the job" while taking classes to become teachers. Then you have programs like teach for America where you graduate college (w/o a degree in education) & place those graduates in our poorest schools in the country to teach. Trust me, there is no overage of qualified teachers.

      May 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  10. parent

    everybody wants to blame the teachers.a lot of outside factors influence test results.like was the child sick,hungry,or upset over something at home .had they slept the night before.some children just do not do well on standardized tests
    If its such a good idea to base teacher pay on a test, maybe it should be applied to other jobs. maybe a dentist should get paid less if you get a cavity. a doctor gets paid on a percentage of your recovery. if you lose a leg his pay gets cut
    you'd soon be out of dentists and doctors.do you think teachers,an already under paid profession,will be any different

    May 21, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Gary

      Thank you "parent". Before anyone start beating their chests about how good or poor our education system is, they should take a real close look at the Finnish model of education. Yes Finland! That country on the North Sea who leads the world in math and science. That little country that requires every teacher to have a Masters degree, but then has the wisdom to let those teachers put that degree to use in the classroom as creatively as they choose. They choose the curriculum and how to transfer it to students. And believe it or not, they like their jobs so much they don't need any "ax" hanging over their heads to get the job done. Finnish people also consider teaching a high status profession and are on waiting lists to become teachers. They are not forced to teach to a test like our teachers are. They, oh my gosh what a concept, actually teach the curriculum in the most creative way they can. I also have to laugh at companies like Pearson who state they are making the best tests, using the best standards in order to measure students and teachers. PEOPLE, THEY GET PAID TO MAKE THESE TESTS BY THE VERY SAME PEOPLE WHO USE THEM AS A MEASURING STICK. THE GOVERNMENT. Think there might be a little conflict of interest there? We rebuked John Dewey in the forties and fifties. Let us not make the same mistake with the Finnish model.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • hst

      Reading your statement & most below, it seems everyone feels the need to vent - understandable. We, as a society, are aware NCLB & the way it's now using high-stakes testing is flawed. Even the government knows this which is why a little over a month ago 40 states received waivers & most others had applied for them so they aren't required to meet NCLB standards. Arnie Duncan is aware of the problem - he helped create the waivers but why isn't anything being done to truly alter or get rid NCLB instead of putting virtually EVERY state on a waiver? It's an election year – end of story (& that's not partial to Democrats or Republicans, it just is).

      One problem is that we are always looking for some overarching "quick" fix that simply doesn't exist. We attempt to nationalize something that shouldn't be... we can't get people in one room to agree what the purpose of education is for let alone our nation. Seriously, is the purpose to create good citizens, to create future workers, to develop thoughtful people to create change, etc. -and trust me, ask your friends & neighbors and many are likely to have differing beliefs. We don't truly know what we want from our teachers – you answer might be to simply say "to teach" but to teach what? The academic content, morals (whose?), personal hygiene, etc.

      As for the gentleman writing below about Finland... great for them! When I first read about Finland over a year ago I originally felt the same way. Do I wish we had the rigor here that they do there? Of course! Will it ever happen here? Not in the near future. Why? From the "becoming a teacher" side – we have so many ways people can become teachers today (not saying all are good or bad) but some alternative routes today require 6 weeks or less & you're inserted in to a classroom... through privatization of teacher certification programs, we just don't have rigor. Then, let's just say every teacher was "perfect" (whatever you define as the perfect teacher) - we are how many times larger than Finland with MUCH more diversity – be it race, religion, social class, cultural, etc. that all plays in to our education system. -just checked – the population of Finland is a little over 5 million - the population of New York City alone - a little over 8 million.

      Again, I am not trying to bash anyone here but we all have to realize that there is no "quick" fix or easy solution in regards to education - my one suggestion, once elections are over, would be to get rid of (not testing) but high stakes testing which we spend BILLIONS of dollars on every year. I'm pretty sure we can find better ways to use the money to actually support our children's educations.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • Dagobert II

      Doctors that fail get sued. Maybe its time for educators to get a taste of that too.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:10 am |
      • jimmer

        Doctors don't have to treat 20 patients at a time.

        May 21, 2012 at 9:29 am |
      • Lara

        Indeed, Dagobert, teachers like all professionals can and should have their performance assessed . . . just as a doctor would. That said, doctors' performance is not assessed on the basis of whether the patient takes their medication correctly at the right time of day with food or water, etc, as instructed. Nor is a doctor assessed on whether the patient eats right, gets enough sleep and exercise, has a healthy cholesterol level and blood pressure, and avoids things like smoking. In fact, those things are much more a measure of the patient and his (or her) ability to follow directions and live a healthy lifestyle. High-stakes tests measure the students performance on a particular day. Much like a patient's blood pressure could be affected by multiple external stressors, short-term and long-term events, so could a student's performance. The point of this article is not to eliminate assessing teachers; the point is to evaluate teachers based on their own performance, not factors outside their control.

        May 21, 2012 at 9:32 am |
      • Rick

        Really, doctors get sued? Doctors have tons of protection against law suits. There are people, who were injured by doctors, that received nothing in terms of compensation for their pain and suffering. Doctors being damanged by lawsuits is a myth nowadays. I hope that you are never harmed by a doctor's mistakes, but if you are, you will quickly discover this reality. You see, doctors got together with big-insurance and got states to make laws that provide multiple layers of protection to doctors who make mistakes that led to harming others.

        The thinking was that we can't allow people to sue doctors because it will put doctors out of pratice. This thinking went on that all doctors make mistakes some times, but we should not discourage them from being doctors...we need doctors and should encourage them to continue to pratice. The problem is that some people get hurt and end up with little recourse. Maybe we need a system that punishes doctors if those in their care get sick, over eat, continue to smoke, don't exercise, or die in their care.

        May 21, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  11. Ray

    The problem is not standardized testing. The problem is that education is paid for from tax dollars. As long as the federal government tries to run education, schools will fail all students equally. Only if students and parents pay the school bills will the education system be response to the educational needs of the community. Some people say that education is too expensive to expect average people to foot the bill. But the reason it is so expensive is because governments are paying the costs, so there is no incentive to streamline or modernize.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • Faz

      I suggest you watch John Stossel's "Stupid in America" before making anymore comments.
      http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Stossel/story?id=1500338#

      May 21, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  12. tempemom

    Pass/Fail. No excelling. No approaching. This would take a lot of pressure off both the students and the teachers.

    May 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  13. Dave

    Funny. Standarized tests have been in use for decades with no problems. Guess some of the union teachers aren't qualified to teach.

    May 20, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Rick

      And exactly what does "union" have to do with it? Why not get serious and ask smart questions and make carefully thought-out answers.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • bdo1183

      In Virginia we have the standards of learning tests (SOLs) Schools here are now under a policy that if it's not on these stupid asinine tests then it should not be taught. This in effect glosses over roughly half the book material because of the damn tests. Now blame teachers all you want because true enough it couldn't possibly be because the method of teaching is bad could it? Pass/fail ok that is complete BS. It's up to the kid to learn, But if all the material isn't presented to them or presented in a way that they relate to then of course they are going to do bad on these idiotic mostly multiple choice tests. Tests like these should be scrapped entirely. Furthermore, incentives should be given by a good teacher that's called extra credit encourage the kids to go out and independently study. Not just stress year after year about some idiotic standardized test.

      May 21, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • Tracy

      Hi Dave. Standardized tests have been used for a long time but the point of this article is that now we are using standardized tests solely to judge student achievement and teacher competence. They were never meant to be the sole assessment tool and don't even show individual progress so they aren't telling us as much as we actually need to know. If we really wanted to evaluate student achievement we'd use a wide variety of...oh never mind. You folks just don't like public education so anything I say will be dismissed.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:52 am |
    • Rick

      Many teachers do not belong to a union. I live in a Right to Fire state, and can't join a real union. It is funny though. The states with strong unions, like Maryland, have awesome schools and scores. States without teacher unions are most often the lowest-performing in terms of overall results. States with strong teacher unions do better than states without on average. So your point is wrong.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  14. SAT/ACT Wizard

    The problem is the tests measure much more than "reading" or "math." Valedictorians are failing standardized reading tests and only doing average on the SAT and/or ACT. How can that be? I can raise an SAT reading test score an average of 100 points in about two hours. My students always pass our state competency exams. Those students' scores certainly didn't go up because I made them better readers. They went up because they became better test takers. In an open meeting, I was accused by our state department of education staff of "cheating," and "should be arrested" for teaching kids how to be better test takers. They are concerned that students will perform better than they should. The issue is simply that their tests are not "pure" and measure more than reading skills or I wouldn't be able to get the results I do.

    May 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  15. Sher

    I taught in a upper middle class high performing district where the patents were involved and invested, the students were for the most part motivated and well behaved and the teachers had adequate resources and ongoing professional development. The expectation was our students would show a years growth every year..and they did. I have spent the past 2 years as an administrator in a small urban charter school. The situation is the exact opposit of the first one I described. Our kids and their Families are not school centered..they are survival centered..and school comes in as a distant 2nd or even 3rd in their lives. Attendace and tardies are a huge issue, homework return is minimally, there is little to no parent involvemt..unless their student is suspended., the behaviors are terrible and at times make classroom instruction impossible. I dont' blame the kids..and I refuse to blame the staff.. I have seen both sides of the educational setting.

    May 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Sher

      I didn't mean to post yet. You cannot judge education progress with one brush...nor by a single or even several standardized tests. there must be multiple measures that include data from multiple sources, as well as a rubrics.for classroom management. And effective delivery of curriculum. As far as people calling for national testiing,that is coming. 49 states have signed on to Common Core National Standards which will lead to Common Core testing. That will still not address the difference in socio economic make ups of schools which directly effect scores.

      May 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • MamaKas

      Being a teacher I would think you would check your spelling and grammar before posting something...just saying...as a teacher, any point you are trying to get across about education is lost when your post is lacking in those two areas.

      May 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • raw28

      No offense but you misspelled several words in your essay.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  16. Dumas

    Education is not the same as making a high score on a standardized test. The economy is becoming increasingly more diverse while our education system is becoming more uniform. Why do we make kids interested in computers and theater learn the same things? The only thing that's really clear is that Washington is making a bad system much much worse.

    May 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Grits

      That is so very true

      May 27, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  17. DanMarino

    Has anyone listened to the recording of the teacher on Breitbart?

    May 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  18. cc

    "which is just so wrong' BS. There are only two ways you can meaningfully evaluate schools. One is by having a single committee evaluating all the schools-is that practical? The other is via standardized testing. A committee evaluation is always subjective so having different committees evaluate different schools leads to an 'apples to oranges' comparison. The tests can probably be made better, but to evaluate schools based on how well the teachers suck up to the students & supervisors will degrade the quality of education.

    May 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Dad of a diabetic

      There are only two ways you can meaningfully evaluate Doctors who treat patients with type 1 diabetes. one is by having a single committee evaluating all the Doctors-is that practical? The other is by evaluating the Doctor on how well their young patients control their diabetes (A1C test). A committee evaluation is always subjective and leads to apple to oranges comparison. The A1C test can probably be made better, but to evaluate a Doctor on how well the Doctor sucks up to the children and supervisors will degrade the quality of diabetic treatment. - The problem with holding Doctors accountable for how well heir young patients do on A1C test every three months, is that there are so many factors beyond a Doctor's control. The same is true for teachers. It is not my child's Doctors fault if there is a horrible A1C test result, it is my fault for not monitoring my child better. It is not my child's Teachers fault if homework is not done and my child is up all night watching tv, it is my fault. Where is the parent accountablity is all of this testing? We would not dare hold any other profession accountable in the way we are holding teachers accountable!!

      May 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • withoeve

      A test would be proper if we knew what we are measuring. Where are the correlation studies showing that students who perform well on these tests perform better in work, college, or life? Moreover, who is being tested? The tests are being using to measure success of teachers without regard to parents, students, facilities, curriculum, socio-economics, environment, and a million other factors that actually affect outcomes. I have several students that simply blow off the test, clicking as quickly through as possible so they can get out of the over heated computer lab where they must sit still and be watched like prison inmates.

      Think of it this way. Our law makers are hired to make laws that protect us and make our lives better. They should be successful. If they are actually doing their job, we should be able to measure their success. If they have done their job, each year we should have lower prison populations, fewer people needing welfare, and improved income for everyone. They should be successful regardless of who they are dealing with or any other conditions in the world. Sociopaths must be rehabilitated fully; our economy must be robust with 0% unemployment; and... well, I hope you get the point.

      It's like expecting a doctor to have a 100% success rate of cure even though he or she must take on every case that is presented and there is no requirement that the patients follow any plans the doctor gives. Lawyers must win all of their cases. Car mechanics must make every car run smoothly.

      May 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Brett

      Of course it is possible to have a committee evaluation of every school.

      Police departments have a single committee evaluating every police department in the world. This includes week long on-site visits. Fire departments have a single committee evaluating every department in the state, with analysis of every critical call out. Tens of thousands of private industry companies evaluate every single employee.

      We simply are unwilling to spend the money for true evaluation of teachers and schools.

      May 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  19. Jason

    One of the biggest problems with these "standardized tests" are that they're designed individually by each state yet the federal government distribute funds and rewards based on just the number of passing scores alone, as a result, a lot of states with horrible school systems manages to keep themselves afloat just by issuing easier tests and artificially inflating their test scores. We need to actually standardize these tests by making sure that the entire nation receives the same exam.

    May 20, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  20. ruemorgue

    Teachers are blamed for all inadequately prepared students which *graduate* from high school, but most of the responsibility starts and ends at *home*. The parents have to enforce and show the value of an education. Teaching Creationism and other similar garbage because the local yokels expect or demand it puts the blame on the community that chose this garbage, not the teachers who have their jobs held for ransom. Education is too important to allow ignorant people decide the curriculum. Only in the USA does this insanity exist!

    May 20, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • g2

      hate Christians much?

      May 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  21. Rural South

    Teachers in rural southern school districts who teach that the earth is not 6000 – 10000 years old, or that the earth was not wiped out by a flood in 2300BC, or that everyone did not speak the same language until 1700BC, or that evolution is real, take a great risk. Without tenure, these teachers would be forced to conform to the relegious views of the local community or they would risk their jobs. Without tenure, school districts do not have to give a reason for firing someone. A history teacher who taught that Egypt was not destroyed by a flood in 2300BC, could easily be fired. A geography teacher who taught that the Grand Canyon was millions of years old, could be fired without a reason. A science teacher who taught that evolution is real, would not be rehired. Many rural areas believe that the Dayton, Tennessee school district did the right thing when they fired John Scopes.

    May 20, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Abigail

      Okay, I've had it with people running down my state on here. OUR SCHOOL IS THE THIRD BEST IN THE NATION. Yes we still pray in school, yes we sing songs that wouldn't ordinarily be allowed, Yes we are located in the middle of nowhere, but can you argue with back-to-back football championships, Honored by the College board, State level superiors in Chorus and Band, and 95% of students scoring 90% or higher on our End of Courses that are Standardized tests? No. I don't think so. So go back to wherever you came from, quit running down country people, and see how well your school is doing. HA

      May 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  22. Mandor

    How is "high stakes testing" any different from the rest of life? We measure a doctor based on outcomes. We measure a car mechanic based on outcomes. We measure an engineer on outcomes. We measure an airline pilot on outcomes.

    Hell we even measure a waiter on outcomes when we decide how much to tip. No, it's not filling in bubbles on a piece of paper. But the waiter has only the duration of your meal to impress you with quality service and good food. There's no do-over, because if the food or service is poor you won't be back.

    So why is this such a horrible and unfair thing to measure teachers on outcomes? Using the standardized test as a way to measure. Or are the teachers claiming that we have to take their word on what the outcomes are and then judge them on what they tell us it was?

    May 20, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Hripsime

      "We measure a doctor based on outcomes."
      Some years ago we tried rating doctors based on patient mortality rates. The result was that people with stage four cancer couldn't find a decent doctor. The educational equivalent of that is happening in today's schools, where the schools with the most difficult kids are getting the most inexperienced and unqualified teachers.

      May 20, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Dad of a diabetic

      If my child does not do what the doctor orders, and I do not make sure that my child eats right and takes regular blood readings, and then my child has a terrible A1C test, then the doctor is not held accountale, my child and my child's parents are held accountable. My child's doctor told us that she turns in parents to social services if they do not monitor their child's diabetes. Should the Doctor be fired because a child has neglectful parents??

      May 20, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • AlmanorJohn

      Mandor: The tests are invalid on their face since there is no advantage to the student in doing well. The results of the exams are not revealed until much later, if ever. Teachers are generally not given any results which allow for improvement in their classroom presentations. and the kids don't give a damn. Why should they? The exams are boring, take all day for several days, keep the kids anchored to their desks, and have absolutely no relevance to them. I have seen many answer sheets marked with all "C" or with figures made of the answers. What does it matter to them, there is no advantage to doing well and no penalty for doing poorly. If the tests are to be used for any reason, there must be come consequence to those who are taking the test. I suggest that the advancement from grade to grade be based on the kid's performance on the exams. I'll bet that will substantially alter the test scores nationwide.

      May 20, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Teacher Supervisor

      It is not the best way to measure effectiveness because students will not get a score based ONLY on what the teacher taught. I see many intermediate students who should do better than they do on the final test. Why they scored lower is not only a result of the teacher's instruction. The student could be too tired, upset about something, unable to focus, apathetic about the test, up the night before because they were hungry and couldn't sleep, etc. The list of possible reasons goes on and on. None directly related to teacher performance. Also, a teacher I work with, who has been on intervention for her poor teaching and classroom management, scored higher than the other teachers in her grade level. It was not because she is a good teacher. I would not let her teach my dog. Why did her class do so well? Luck of the draw. She got a class of "higher" achieving students. She did NOT add any value to their educational growth. In fact many of the students expressed how they could not wait to be out of her class because she was so unprofessional and just plain mean to her students. Standardized testing is not going anywhere and we need to have testing. But, we need to measure teacher's effectiveness on more than just one measure. As far as tipping a waiter, I have always found this to be an ineffective way of measuring his/her performance. Cooks, dishwashers, hosts, & quality of food, etc. are all things outside of the wait person's control. So, how is it fair that they have their pay docked whether it was their fault or not?!

      May 20, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • withoeve

      What does an educated student look like? What is the outcome?

      I can tell you that the students who have spent their whole school career with these tests and teachers forced to teach to the test cannot perform basic logic functions and generally lack the ability to problem solve. When I present them with a situation that has two or more correct answers, they tend to fall apart.

      What are we measuring? What is a valid result?

      May 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Teach24

      The problem with the "only outcomes approach" is quite simply that a public school teacher is able to work with only what raw materials (students) that are supplied. In other words, if your mechanic's shop is getting some bad parts in your repairs, it does not mean the mechanic is bad – he just needs to go to a different parts supply source. Teachers cannot do that. They have to take who ever comes in the door. Same is true for all the examples you gave. Manufacturing and engineering deal with absolutes of a sort. Students are not all the same. Education is in many ways subjective. Just like people.

      May 20, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  23. Boris

    There is NO such thing as "high-stakes testing" in the US schools. At least for the kids. The media calls any test that has any consequences at all "high-stakes." A driving test is a lot more high-stakes than any of the high-school tests. What's a high-stakes test? Here is an example: when I graduated from high school in Russia, everyone could apply to just one college and take four or five different entrance exams. Based on the results of those tests, you were either in college or had to wait for another year to re-apply, period. Of course, if you are a male, you could be drafted in the military and sent to Afghanistan before you could reapply.
    Similarly high-stakes testing exists in many Asian countries and in Europe as well – but in the US. Get some perspective, people.
    Please note that all of the above does not make an attempt to justify the tests themselves – although, personally, I think that they are perfectly valid, for the most part, as indicators of a child's academic competence. The argument like "they don't have to take pencil-and-paper test in real life so why do it at school?" is totally bogus, of course. In the US, we have pretty good doctors and lawyers – all of whom had to take a battery of grueling (and high-stakes, mind you!) paper-and-pencil tests. Apparently, those tests did a good job selecting and training those professionals, huh?

    Check this out:
    http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/courses/teachers_corner/40990.html

    May 20, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Crimson Wife

      The SAT or ACT is a pretty high stakes test for most students. Sure, there are a few decent colleges out there that make taking it optional, but they're the exceptions to the rule. The Ivies, Stanfords, and MIT's certainly aren't going to accept a student without sky-high standardized test scores.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:17 am |
      • Grits

        The Ivys, Stanfords, Mits, are the most expensive schools but they are not the best for learning or getting a good education. In fact, they are the easier schools to pass and graduate from.

        May 27, 2012 at 12:54 am |
      • Grits

        They also reject many students with sky-high standardized test scores and accept many with much lower test scores.

        May 27, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • raggedhand

      If you want a better teaching cadre, it's very simple. Testing kids and using their tests to rate teachers AFTER teachers are hired and have been on the job is too late. Hire better teachers.

      I'm a high school teacher, so I know my colleagues will cringe when I write this, but teaching programs in colleges are painfully, embarrassingly easy. My state certification tests were a joke. I remember my first certification test. I was nervous and studied for it, but I really didn't know what to expect. As I sat down to take the tests, I was surrounded by other test takers who had failed three or four times, which put me in a panic. When my scores came back I was in the 96 percentile. Since then I've been certified in three other (STEM) areas and I don't even bother to crack a book the night before. My lowest score was 86%. Now, I'm a pretty smart cookie, but that's ridiculous. All I can do is think about the students who are stuck in classrooms with a teacher who failed their certification tests three or four times and wonder at what sort of education they're getting.

      Finland, which is being held up as a model lately, pays it's teachers well and makes the process of becoming a teacher rigorous and meaningful. The test their students take are used to evaluate the programs and create sensible remediation for lagging students. We need to start at the source and find and encourage (and PAY!) great teachers. Great students will follow.

      May 20, 2012 at 10:17 am |
      • Ed

        Paying teachers more money would certainly draw in and retain more teachers. But being money is in rather short supply these days, maybe the same could be achieved if a program could be dvised giving teachers a four-month vacation instead of the three-month vacation. I believe it has been proven over the years the more money we invest in our schools the worse they get. If money were the answer the public schools in Wasshington DC would rank at the top.

        May 20, 2012 at 10:43 am |
      • Hripsime

        I know exactly what you are talking about, since I had a similar experience. However, we aren't going to get more rigorous credentialing programs with better students in them until teaching is better respected as a profession. Bringing up Finland again, their teachers are people who were top students before they entered any sort of credentialing program, and they all have masters degrees. In Finland, however, teachers are respected professionals, on the same level in society as doctors and lawyers. Their decision making is trusted, and they have autonomy in their classrooms, as opposed to the smothering micromanagement that teachers face here in the US.

        We need to get top students from top universities in our credentialing programs in order for the programs to improve, but that won't happen as long as we treat our teachers the way we do.

        May 20, 2012 at 11:12 am |
      • Geogirl

        I don't know where you got your credential but I worked my tail off for mine. My teacher education program is ranked in the top 5 for the country. Because of it, I am a really good teacher. The problem I have is that because I'm a "good" teacher and can teach & connect with just about any student, I continually get to teach the lower performing, lower socioeconomic student or the hard to reach kids. The test scores are around average for the state of California (meaning they're not proficient) but they're better than if someone else taught my same group of students.

        The state doesn't look at this though and I don't think I should have my salary penalized because I teach lower level students.

        May 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  24. soundboard

    I've done great on all the standerdized testing, but only because my parents made me take the time to learn math, science, reading, and writing. Standerdized testing is only useful to get into college. I never cared about the tests that I had to take, and sincerely doubt most other students did either. The big reason why most students groan over these tests is because when we grow up and get jobs.....you never fill in bubbles on pieces of paper. The only reason standerdized testing has gotten so big is so school districts can file for more government money. The consequences of schools doing this is coming to bite them in the butt. Standerdized testing for every single grade is a waste of money, takes valuable time away from actual learning, and places stress on students and teachers that have no say on the test.

    May 20, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Ed

      Instead of studying how to take tests, it might serve students better if multiple choice answers were thrown out. If we want to know what the student knows, the essay question will provide the answer, i.e., the student cannot guess the answer. Even with no idea what the answer might be, the student still has a fair chance of guessing what the correct answer is. Especially so if one, or sometimes two, of the answers border ridiculous. If two offerings are silly the student has a 50% chance of guessing correctly. If there is only one silly answer the student will have the opportunity to guess one out of three. If there are only a few of these questions that the student has no idea what the answer is, the student has a chance to score 100, if lucky. And this 100 is false, unless we give credit for excellent guessing. With essay questions it can be determined what the student knows about the subject. Maybe a teacher does not want to know, is very happy the student scored 100, giving credit to tthe teacher's teaching ability. But in these days of 'fairness' perhaps the teacher can give all students passing grades so there will be no student who feels bad when failing a test. These students can then join the many who have difficulty reading their graduation diplomas.

      May 20, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  25. KTT

    I have many family members who are teachers, so I know just how hard many teachers do work. I have had some pretty scary teachers though, I am confused as to how they even got certified. One was a civics teacher who knew less about the subject than I did. After making 100% on most of my tests, she would let me out of class to sit in the library and work on other subjects. The best and scariest day was when she was going over a popular short story written by O'Henry. One student asked it it was by Dickens and she said YES! Most of the students in class did not even know where the different US states where located, so this was obviously the level of teaching in many schools around our town. This was before the testing system we have now was introduced, I don't know if she kept her job or not. I also know of many kids that slept through most of the state testing we had to go through, so you can't blame it all on teachers.

    May 20, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  26. gary

    too much fed $ rest on test results ...testing is now for the wrong reason; not for kids' benefit, but for money

    May 20, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  27. Hripsime

    Finland, which outscores all other western nations, including the US, gives no standardized tests to kids until they are ready to graduate from high school. The teachers are strongly unionized, and test scores play no role in teacher evaluations. Teachers in Finland have more autonomy in the classroom than they do in the US, and it is up to them how and when students are assessed during the year. Every now and then an education official from Finland is interviewed by someone in the US media. Funny how we completely ignore what they have to say about why their students are so successful.

    May 20, 2012 at 4:00 am |
    • julia

      What Finland's education system says is that if you control your borders and only have middle class white kids in your schools- your kids can test at the top of the pack. What's never mentioned in these rankings it that the US only ranks so low when all of the poor, minority and ESL students are included. When comparing Finland's test scores to the top US schools like in Fairfax County VA, Finland isn't so special.

      May 20, 2012 at 7:34 am |
      • American

        There are plenty of high-performing diverse schools. Stop playing the race card.

        May 20, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • AlmanorJohn

      Hripsime: You're right on the money with your posting! If I may add a bit, most kids in Finland don't start school until they are 8 years old. They are nearly 21 when they complete their 12th grade of school. This advanced age equates to greater maturity when they are tested. I'll bet not many of them deliberately mismark their answer sheets as so many kids do in the USA.

      May 20, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  28. Joan

    I championed Charter school legislation in Colorado and opened the first elementary charter school in the state under a temporary charter. A former Catholic school teacher and IT exec on sabbatical at the time, our "secret" formula was core curriculum, teacher autonomy, and lack of money, but lots of hope. Charter schools continue to out-perform traditional schools despite less money, crap for supplies, second hand books. Another thing we didn't have? Unions. Contracts are for one year and one year only, rate of pay negotiated based on level of responsibility, number of classes you teach, other duties – just like any other job. And great teachers lined up to interview for those jobs. I threw away lots of resumes that had errors and misspelled words. No math degree? Not teaching math here no matter where you taught it last. We interviewed and hired qualified teachers to do specific jobs – those with more experience we pegged to take on more responsibility. Work effort was spelled out – hours were not – like other professional jobs, you were expected to stay until the job was done.
    Student contact hours far exceeded the districts but at that time were about 200 more hrs then they are in Colorado now and far more then the national average.
    In CO charter schools must enroll a mix of children reflective of the district including handicapped, minority, etc.
    In short: select superior curriculum and teach it and tests take care of themselves
    Hire competent, qualified teachers and have more senior teachers mentor them
    Pay the mentor teachers more, but make them more accountable
    Adequate student contact hours 5 days a week, 9.5 months a yr minimum
    More money fixes nothing – it's a lie
    Teaching is a job, a profession, treat teachers like professionals make them accountable, respect them
    Forget teaching to the test, just teach, it's more honest

    May 20, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • gwtars

      "Charter schools continue to outperform"? What data are YOU seeing? We see the scores here in Colorado Springs, and we can plainly see that what you state is absolutely not true. Charters consistently score LOWER than public schools according to the data.

      May 20, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Tim

      How did your school rank based on the standardized tests? Charter schools typically don't outperform other schools and statistics don't support the idea that schools with teacher unions do significantly better or worse on standardized testing than those that are non-union. However, there is a direct correlation with family income and performance on standardized tests. Better teachers prefer working in "wealthier" districts which contributes to the achievement gap. With NCLB and Race to the Top, why would good teachers want to work with lower-performing students?

      May 20, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  29. Laura2

    I wonder how many teachers – and parents – voted for Bush.

    May 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  30. hopemac

    "Cunningham said principal observation, as well as feedback from peers, parents and students, should be taken into consideration, too." None of that is happening. Principals and school districts are being leaned on to product test schools. Then when student don't perform on the tests, the principals can be fired. So they begin to lean on the teachers to perform better on the tests. The very companies that produced the tests also produce providing strategies that teachers can be graded on. These strategies are based on marginal research.
    This is not coming from a need to improve education. It is coming from a billionaires club. A group of very rich people who have discovered that they can create standards (common core standards) curriculum and then used their money to influence education in order to create a need ( market) for their product. Bill Gates and Pearson Inc and a number of other companies have greased the palms of many in the department of education and many politicians. Gates gives grant money to education journals and in return many are publishing article in favor of these common core standards and in favor of school improvement methods that Bill Gates and his group are pushing. And will are falling farther behind. The front runner is Finland and they are doing just the opposite of everything American schools are doing with their school improvement movement.
    "At the U.S. Department of Education, Cunningham isn’t surprised by the pushback. He said change is not an easy thing. “I think we’re all going to learn from it and they’re going to continue to adapt and approve upon it,” said Cunningham."" Ya, change isn't easy when we see the financial sector screwing up our economy and now we are seeing big business and some of those same people from Wall Street trying to get a choke hold on our school system.
    They have discovered that if they can convince the federal government to take over the schools, there is a ton of money to be made in providing a common core curriculum that ever child in the United States will use. Just think of the money to be made if every 4th grade uses the same math book. As Bill Gates has already stated, there is economy in numbers. His economy!

    May 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  31. Amy

    Google "New York State Pineapples Don't Have Sleeves Test" and take your pick of interesting reads. So, why did the animals eat the pineapple? An IQ score doesn't make a difference when the questions are bogus.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  32. jake

    Some kids aren't college material. You can throw all the tax money in the world into education and it's not going to make any difference. Rather than trying to fit every kid into the college prep mold, why not use standardized testing to figure out what each student's strengths and weaknesses are. Why not allow kids who don't test well, who don't like to study to go to vocational schools and learn a trade.

    Kids who aren't good at academics don't need 12 years of education were they feel less than everyone else. The rest of the world uses testing to figure out what track kids are on. It's unfair for a kid who's a C student and not able to keep up with advanced placement classes to be told the only way to succeed is to spend tens of thousands of dollars going to college.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • ME

      Finally.....someone who understands that 'One Size does not fit all in the world of education"
      Jake for President.....Superintendent.....Dept of Education..etc...
      Please spread the word Jake...These tests are totally out of control..Teachers are no longer working together....as a team...they work for a score on a test as they are rated on that and that alone....and that is a fact..I plan to speak up for these teachers that are being harassed every single day because they have been given the lowest of the lowest and are compared straight up to the prissy goody two shoes teacher up the hall who has the best of the best...
      I know some teachers who are about ready to sue....have seen their lawyers and to heck with this Testing Career because that is all it is these days and that is a fact!!

      May 26, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • RD

      You really made a good point...college is now so expensive that if a young student is not going to put 100% in and is less likely to succeed in order to get out and make good money, a vocational trade is nothing to scoff at...in fact, many of those trades are making much higher salaries than graduates with certain degrees...

      May 27, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  33. kdp

    Newest research indicates the following–PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT AND PARENTAL BEHAVIOR ARE THE BIGGEST FACTORS IN EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT. Here are the key questions: what percentage of the student body has a two-parent household? How many hours per week on average do parents volunteer at the school? And how many years have the parents attended college? Guess what...students at schools that have a high percentage of parents who are married (intact original marriages or blended families), see great levels of participation from parents, and have educated households do very well on standardized tests.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • kdp

      So...what are the tests really telling us about teacher performance? There are some small differences between teachers, which may vary from year to year. A sub-group of teachers may be lousy. We have to find to let them go, regardless of seniority. But what about parenting and parents? This data really may reveal something significant and may explain why, to some extent, children of Jewish families and Asian families often excel.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Me

      The flaw in statistics is that it can never be applied universally. Case in point, I was raised in a single-parent household with absolutely no PTA involvement that wasn't specifically requested by the teacher, and I tested very well every year, went to college, and have had a great job since. My brother was raised in the exact same household and tested mediocre, didn't go to college, and struggles career-wise. Same household; 50% chance of turning out one way or another.

      Obviously there are more factors to a person's success than just their parents' life choices. Statistics aren't explanations–they're just observations. Relying on them to dictate the choices you make in your life comes with no guarantees of success in your particular case.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Me

      @kdp:

      The flaw in statistics is that it can never be applied universally. Case in point, I was raised in a single-parent household with absolutely no PTA involvement that wasn't specifically requested by the teacher, and I tested very well every year, went to college, and have had a great job since. My brother was raised in the exact same household and tested mediocre, didn't go to college, and struggles career-wise. Same household; 50% chance of turning out one way or another.

      Obviously there are more factors to a person's success than just their parents' life choices. Statistics aren't explanations–they're just observations. Relying on them to dictate the choices you make in your life comes with no guarantees of success in your particular case.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Grits

      That shows that parents are much better teachers to their children on the whole than "certified" public school teachers are.

      May 27, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  34. Kristen

    As the parent of a third grader– that's 8 years old– I found the stress put upon the child regarding these tests to be ridiculous. All week long the school had a "Get Ready For MCAS" week, trying to rev up students and boost enthusiasm for taking the test. My daughter was confused about the whole thing and got very nervous. I told her don't worry, just do your best but the test isn't going to hurt your schoolwork. I tried to make her relax about it, whereas the school was putting all this importance on it. I think my little girl is too young to be stressing over standardized tests. But then I hated school anyway, despite excelling at my schoolwork. Children get far too much homework and have no time to be children. Last year she sat at the kitchen table and cried over a double-sided math worksheet that had 75 problems on it. Seventy-five... she was SEVEN years old. I had to sit with her and calm her and talk her through it. I like a little homework, to teach routine at this age, but she needs to get out and play, be creative, and use her imagination in her own time. Free time. And spend time with family. That is the most important thing in life. :-)

    May 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Grits

      What you say is true. 8 years old is WAY too young to be expected to take tests such as these.

      May 27, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  35. blessedgeek

    This is the name of the game:

    What is the goal?
    The goal is to allow students to excel academically.

    What are the stakes?
    Good academics is manifest by students' performance in tests. Tests must be standardized and to level the playing field.

    What is the game plan?
    If the scores of the school are bad, it means the current crop of teachers are unable to help manifest the academic proficiency of the students. The teachers need to be replaced.

    Is that unfair to the teachers?
    Yes. But, teachers are not the focus here. The world can turn over and the cows can refuse to come home but the focus is on the students. If being unfair to teachers would turn the academic performance of students for the better, that is a worthwhile sacrifice. Sorry teachers.

    But tests do not reflect the true picture of a students academics and intelligence?
    That is like saying Money Doesn't Buy Happiness. It's true to a certain extent. But money does buy happiness, frequently. Lack of money is the root of many evils.

    May 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  36. vern123

    Testing is a joke. Especially for the regular ed kids. Those in "special education" with IEP's get special treatment to "level" the playing field. Their tests have shorter passages, less answer choices and easier reading and math problems. If there is to be testing, TEST ALL KIDS EQUALLY!!! Yes there are those who have limited cognitive abilities, that will show up in the testing and will allow for a true indicator of a students ability. This special treatment for certain kids is bull s@#!t! There is no equal playing field in the real world. You get what you can by what you can do and know.

    May 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • sally

      You really need to get your facts on Special Ed. The tests for severly devlopmentally delayed children is so unfair. Most of them do not posses basic reasoning skills, let alone understand the entire process. I teach children who are significantly delayed and teach them basic living skills (toileting, grooming, how to eat with utensils) basic math (rote counting, identifying moeny and their values, some of my kids understand adding, few understand subtration) basic writing skills, labeling and receptive language skill. The test has abstrat concept like time on it (my students don't get), labeling things like an ardvark (we live in teh Northeast ardvarks are only in a zoo) labeling a gas (they think gas is a fart), and one of my favorites is to have them pour and measure a specific amount of liqid from one container to another. They have limited motor skills and always miss. That is where we stop the tape and everyone, including me get to go and change our clothes. The tests are unfair for regular ed kids because it focuses on only some of the curriculumn. Ask a 9th grader when the Civil war was fought and the have no clue (these things take a back seat to the "test" subjects). I saw an interview recently and they asked 100 high school seniors when the war of 1812 was founght. More than half had no clue. Not every child is able to take the fill in the bubble tests. My child has a 98% GPA and has had that GPA for 6 years. She bombs the standardized tests every year. I finally figured out why, she looses her place. Don't blame special ed and IEPs for standardized tests not being good, blame the politicians who keep reauthorizing NCLB.

      May 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Crimson Wife

      I've got two typical children and one child with a developmental delay. I'm all in favor of allowing accommodations to disabled children so long as the scores are clearly marked as testing with accommodations. Those students with legitimate disabilities won't object to the notation, only those who are trying to gain an unfair advantage. If someone wants to have any hope of finding out how much progress my special needs child has made over the course of a year, the grade level test isn't going to work. She's just too far behind her non-disabled peers, and that's not the fault of her teachers. They have helped her quite a bit but they cannot rid her of her disability. She's on her own timetable, as much as everyone would like to see her at grade level.

      May 20, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  37. MC in TX

    To all who say that there is no place for standardized testing you are a joke. It used to be the case the kids from "the right schools" uniformly got favorable treatment in college admissions and other considerations simply because it was presumed that those schools and their teachers were inherently providing a better education than other schools. Standardized testing is the only way to level the playing field, guarantee minimum standards, and reduce prejudice in the admissions process. Trying to remove standardized testing from education is pushing the nation back.

    To those who believe that standardized tests are Gospel you are equally a joke. Standardized tests always have limitations and flaws and can never capture everything. The more standardized and more broad a test is, the more likely it is that there some part of the population that it is horribly unfair toward. There has to be some flexibility in the process. There has to be some component in the judgement of students, teachers, and schools that is subjective and allows for consideration of these limitations in the tests.

    May 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Grits

      You don't actually believe that do you?

      May 27, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  38. Juan in El Paso

    Standardized tests are bias towards whites – wait! They are bias against minorities – wait! I've taken a lot of them from high school all the way through graduate school and I found out what they are bias towards – stupid, uneducated, no readen' nor ridten hicks, illegals and geatto trash.

    May 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • n2it

      Juan, your spelling speaks volumes about your education.

      May 20, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  39. jsmith

    I recently proctored a high stakes test in which those in charge of setting up the testing sessions shorted the students in required time, failed to set up proceedures for a break that was required by the state, and were angry with the students when they were taken to an alternate location to finsh. The students could not stay in their testing rooms because classes were scheduled to come in. Students who didn't want to shift sites just bubbled the last part of the test at random. And the teachers are going to blamed if these scores are not up to par?

    May 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  40. Ian

    I am a high school English teacher, and we just completed the standardized testing two weeks ago. The most important shortcomming of the standardized testing is the lack of accountability for the student. Teachers are not allowed to assign a grade to the test results, so there is no reason for the student to actually try and do well on the test. Think like a teenager, if I asked you to do something hard, and there is no reward or punishment for succeeding or failing, how much effort would you put into it? Did the powers that be envision that students would simply do their best because they are told to, without any accountability? How does this make valid assessment results? Now they want to judge my effectiveness based on how students score on a test they don't care if they pass or fail? Somebody please explain how this make any sense!

    May 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Cynthia

      I, too, am a high school English teacher, and we have been testing something or other since early April. The students have "test fatigue". I had to wake up students who decided the test was a good time for a nap. When awakened, the kids just bubbled in the proverbial "Christmas Tree" answers and resumed their naps. All my efforts this year as a teacher will be judged on this random and uncaring set of responses. What is even more unfair is that here in Florida, teachers who teach classes such as PE and art will be judged and paid by the scores of MY students. Accountability is fine with me, but make it fair and sensible, please.

      May 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  41. Pragmatist

    Whether we like it or not, college, graduate and professional school admission, even maintenance of certification for multiple professions require standardized testing. In reality, the earlier kids are exposed and the better they become at taking them, the better their chances are at getting opportunities in higher education. So unless the whole merit based approach changes, students better get used to it because it ain't going away until somebody figures out an improved system.

    May 19, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • AlmanorJohn

      Pragmatist" I'll bet there are no mwasurements of the correlation between scores on college entrance exams and the NCLB mandated state exams. Of course the kids will do their best on the ACT or SAT, their college acceptance depends on it. There are no consequences at all devolving from their scores on the State exams. Why not goof off?

      May 20, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  42. allenwoll

    Standardized Tests are SCAM ! ! !

    The ONLY thing they measure RELIABLY is the ability to take Standardized Tests ! ! !

    May 19, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Grits

      True

      May 27, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  43. Don

    if the kids don't pass, keep them back until they pass. No free passing grade. We cannot continue to waterdown the test or lower the grade to make everybody feel good. Not all kids will go to college. Some will go to trade schools and some will go to college and a few will be a bum or clean and mow other folks lawn. Don't think for a minute that they all will go to college. That is life.
    If you pay more then perhaps more people will think about becoming a high school teacher. I once had a teacher in high school that can't even do trig and he taught algebra. How many math teacher in high school do you know have an engineering degree? They barely have enough math courses to teach the kids.
    Go to your local university and compare the SAT or ACT of all students in their respective college. Look at the Engineering department and see what is their average ACT or SAT score and then look at the Education department and their test score. I knew folks that can't handle Engineering, went to Business, can't handle that either and theyfinally went into Education.

    May 19, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • allenwoll

      You are really quite clueless. . Turn-OFF Fox : Have you ever acted as a "teacher" ?

      The verb "to teach" is meaningless : It implies that knowledge can somehow be imparted to the mind which is UN-willing to learn. . The valid verb is "to learn" : The "teacher" is at best only a facilitator in the classroom. . Young people learn whatever they WANT to learn, mostly without ANY contact with ANY "teacher".

      One does NOT passively "receive" an education : One OBTAINS an education via active and determined, conscious EFFORT ! ! ! . The onus is EXCLUSIVELY on the student ! ! !

      May 19, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • jsmith

      This is simply insulting to all of us who busted our butts in college and continue to do so every day in our classrooms. Are there teachers who should not be in the classroom? Cerainly, but there are more of us who started out in teaching, not because we had low ACT scores or couldn't handle other majors. Your teacher was the exception, not the rule.

      May 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Vicky

      I find it interesting that, according to you, most teachers are of average to below average IQ. We've all heard, "Those who can do and those who can't, teach."
      I wonder, from whom do you think all the smart engineers learned the necessary skills to achieve decent scores on the SAT and ACT? Were they all home schooled and self taught?

      May 20, 2012 at 5:32 am |
  44. hippiekenny

    Those tests are a joke. I took one in High School on 2 hits of acid and scored in the 99 percentile. It was kinda cool to watch the filled in circles move around, tho.

    May 19, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  45. Also A Teacher

    Four companies are raking in millions of dollars for standardized testing. In Florida, Pearson receives millions of dollars of tax money. Meanwhile, our counties are being forced to cut millions of dollars. These cuts included teachers (many in special areas such as art, music, physical education, librarians). In our county, secondary teachers will teach 7 or 8 periods so that less teachers will be hired. Forget support of paraprofessionals or aides. Teachers are beins stressed to the max. As long as testing is big business, politicians who know nothing about education will continue along the high stakes path.

    May 19, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  46. Bill

    Standardized testing is a disaster.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Public school

      You don't fatten a pig by weighing it often.

      May 19, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  47. tmus

    In my situation- we strive to use these test as diagnostic tools to help the student-effectively putting the focus back on the process of individual learning.

    May 19, 2012 at 4:41 am |
  48. Martina

    In the country I grew up it, there were no standardized tests. Nor were there multiple choice tests.You either knew the answer of you didn't. No chance of guessing right. Now, I love studying in the US because it is sooo EASY.

    May 19, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  49. kronsbeast

    The first step is to have every teacher take an IQ test and fire all teachers with IQ's less than 90. This will improve teaching performance significantly.

    May 19, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • David

      Ok, but IQ tests for principals as well, and no waivers...

      May 19, 2012 at 2:07 am |
      • AlmanorJohn

        David: I suggest that we require all candidates for elective state office be required to take an IQ test as well. Even better, they, and all sitting legislatore should be required to take and pass the state high school senior exam. If they don't pass, they;re out and can't resume their seat until they pass the exam and get themselves elected again/

        May 20, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Bobby

      Nope, as the teacher union controls hiring and firing, nothing would change. I made some of the highest scores ever seen on the teacher tests in the state of Virignia, and I have not been hired to teach. Why? Because my scores would create a higher bar that most tenured teachers cannot live up to. It would create problems for the way the union "protects" their members. Glad we care so much about the kids and their education. This is why the US is falling behind every country int he world in education.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:50 am |
      • William

        Bobby,

        Sounds like sour grapes to me. You are not being hired based on your good test scores? Really? How about: you are not being hired because there are no jobs open that you qualify for right now? Or, perhaps because you are a little too full of yourself. You obviously have a lot to learn, despite your amazing ability to take a test. Teaching is far more than rote content knowledge.

        May 19, 2012 at 7:37 am |
      • em

        Unions don't hire or fire anyone–that's an administrative duty. Before many employee rights were abridged, unions could protect an employee from an unjust firing and they could ensure that due process was followed by administration.

        May 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
      • Bammer 1107

        What BS. Unions are not the problem. It's quite certain you have no clue what academia and tenure is all about. Don't blame teachers for you not being able to find a job.

        May 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
      • Mystrk

        I agree that teachers need to be held accountable, but eliminating unions will not necessarily fix things. I would have been fired years ago without our union, and not because I'm a bad teacher, but because I refuse to teach to the test as my principal keeps insisting I should do. My principal wanted to fire me the year the district started asking us to teach to the tests, but my union protected me from such unfair dismissal. I'd be fine with getting rid of unions if this type of thing wouldn't happen, but I know it would.

        May 19, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
      • VA Teacher

        VA doesn't have a real union. They have no bargaining power. They make "suggestions" for teacher contracts and work place issues.

        May 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Jeffersonian Democrat

      90? If we want this country to have a chance than we need to weed out the students with IQ's less than 100 and keep them from weighing down those that can advance.

      May 19, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  50. D Bellows

    Education is a three point relationship which includes, educator, student and PARENT. Teachers can do so much, but if the parents are not going to impose the need for education at home on the child – all is lost. Our education system will NOT change, until parents are called out on poor performance. Anyone can be a Mom or Dad, but it takes a special person to be a parent. That means, you are not your child's friend, but his or her parent.

    May 19, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  51. M. Shane Tutwiler

    Standardized tests scores are technically invalid measures of teacher performance for one simple reason: kids aren't randomly assigned to teachers. If students were randomly assigned, we would expect groups to be "equal on expectation"...any difference between the groups would be random, and we could assume changes in scores are ONLY from the teacher.

    But that is not the case. Students are assigned to teachers for a variety of reasons, some of which are non-educational but might impact scores (for example if a new teacher gets more "problem students" because they are less senior). The "Value Added" models used by the Department of Ed and various states *try* to control for bias due to this, but it is a rough control at best. Even the companies who make the test claim that they should not be used to make direct inferences about teacher performance.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  52. PRESTO

    Using student scores on a standardized test to evaluate teachers is the "Rumplestiltskin Principle:" Whatever enters your room will be turned into gold otherwise you die – or are fired.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  53. xeno

    In my child's school, the tests are such a big deal, all actual education stops when it's testing time. The math curriculum spends more time teaching kids how to answer multiple choice questions and how to take short cuts to speed up test taking time than it does teaching and practicing actual math. It's very, very sad. As a parent, I definitely feel the need to make up for education lost because of these tests. (Not that I mind, but I'd rather be focusing on enrichment of ideas out of school.) Yes, teachers need evaluation, but these tests are out of hand.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  54. bella11

    I agree, the tests to evaluate schools and teachers are a huge mistake and hurt many teachers and schools. I wonder how for instance, teachers from Blue Ribbon Baltimore County suburban schools would perform in downtown Baltimore ghetto schools?

    May 18, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  55. jake

    In LAUSD, 15% of the students graduate ready to go on to a 4 year University and do college level work. Most high school graduates need remedial math classes to catch up to college level coursework. This is unacceptable. Why should public universities be accepting student incapable of doing even 7th grade math? Why should such students even have high school diplomas? Seems to me that too many teachers want to level the playing field by giving out grades to students that they don't deserve. Problem is that when these kids go to college where their grades aren't being inflated out of pity, they have a hard time not being the honor student who's rewarded for mediocre work.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • B

      I disagree wit
      h your sentiments about higher education. As a child, I was (mis)diagnosed with Asperger's and given a wide leniency by way of an individual education plan. (They gave me all the homework for the course up front, in a folder with my name in the library) This diagnosis followed me to my university. Land grant universities are every bit as guilty of 'teaching by the numbers'. Having been given the chance to audit an Ivy League course, I am almost of the opinion that all formal undergraduate education, at least here in the States, is done without any real regard for merit or knowledge, but as an exercise in utilitarian efficiency.

      May 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • David

      It is not the teachers who want to make it easier. Our district office came up with a new grading policy with a 55% now a D-, and this is obviously designed to have higher graduation rates, but at the loss of a decent education. But, the students won't be educated without their parents turning off the X-boxes and asking about homework..and not accepting poor grades. Blaming teachers hasn't worked, it's time to look at the real problem.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • William

      Jake:

      The question that should be asked is: what is the difference between that 15% and the other 85%, and how can we fix the problem? I would put money on it being a difference between students whose parents require certain standards at home for completion of work versus those who do not. I'm a teacher and I can't tell you how frustrating it is to give a simple assignment and have about 50% of a class not have it done on time, or to have 50% of a class trying to do homework for another class in my class as I teach. Is the failure of parents to help educate their kids going to be reflected in standardized tests?

      May 19, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  56. Laura

    Teachers, like everyone who has a JOB, and the schools have to be accountable for their students learning. That was the reason for this legislation in the first place... It was BECAUSE students weren't learning their multiplication tables, and because they couldn't read in high school. From what I see, the greater issue that prevents learning lies with teachers and teacher unions. A teacher can't be fired?! That's unfair... unfair to the kids. I've seen the teachers who do the minimum and take this job just so they have the summer months off while earning a full year's salary. Kids come to them trying to learn and they resent it because it means they have to work harder. The legislation was meant to eliminate these rampant situations.

    May 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • erin

      I call total B.S. on you, Laura. I doubt you've actually "seen" teachers like this (except perhaps in your imagination) and there is not district in this country where teachers "can't be fired." Educate yourself.

      May 18, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
      • Maria

        Erin – You need to educated YOURSELF on this issue. Yes, teachers can be fired but it's rare. I have four children. They are all high achievers. They take honors and AP classes and score in the top 1-2% on standardized testing and college testing. From my experience with both public and private schools, I can tell you that the majority of the teachers who have taught my children would not have had a job in the private sector. As a group, they are notoriously poor writers. For some reason, the teaching profession is at the bottom of the career totem pole as far as attracting the most intelligent, hard-working people. I have had to home-school my children in addition to them attending regular schools just so they actually learned something during the year. That being said, we have certainly encountered a few very good, even exceptional, teachers. Sadly, that is not the norm. We need a system in place that weeds out those teachers who are burned out, not energetic, or not intelligent enough to teach intelligent children. However, I don't think that using the standardized test scores is the vehicle to do this. This just leads to teachers feeling as if they have to teach to the test. Additionally, a good teacher may be penalized for lackluster test performances which are due primarily to what the students should have learned in prior years. YES, we desperately need to improve the quality of teaching, but standardized testing performance should not be used as a measure of a teacher's performance.

        May 18, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
      • chris

        erin, state of Iowa, city of Cedar Rapids..took three years to rid an elementary school of a 3rd grade teacher. Went through all the hoops. Had a laundry list of parent complaints. In the end the reason she was fired was guess what..the reason she should have been fired three years earlier only it took three years for the unions to agree.

        May 18, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
      • chrisj

        State of Iowa, city of Cedar Rapids..took three years to rid an elementary school of a 3rd grade teacher. Went through all the hoops. Had a laundry list of parent complaints. In the end the reason she was fired was guess what..the reason she should have been fired three years earlier only it took three years for the unions to agree.

        May 18, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Jake

      I am a Florida school teacher. I have no problem being judged based on MY merit, not the merit of student performance on a test. Thanks to Race to the Top my 10th grade students will take 22 standardized tests and test practices throughout the year. These are mandated. I teach in a low-socioeconomic area where on any given day my students face eviction, parent arrests, being kicked out of their home by a parent (I had two this week), gangs, drugs, and hunger. A baker can buy different blueberries if his customers don't like the ones he uses, I cannot get new students and I wouldn't want to. If I am not there to pick up the pieces some days, these kids would have no hope, yet so many of them, because they understand need, go on to do great things. Their ability to do college or even to graduate should not be based on those 22 tests, it should be based on my professional assessment, after all that is why I was hired. The kids are suffering in this situation. This week our state dropped the minimum passing score for the writing exam after 2/3rds of the kids in the state failed. The kids were sick over how many tests they took and are stressed. They are prescribed anti-anxiety drugs for crying out loud. Someone stand up for our kids!!! I have tried but I get accused of being nothing but a lazy teacher who doesn't want to be judged.

      May 18, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
      • dotyrs

        Their ability to succeed should be based on YOUR professional assessment? Really? How, exactly, would you like to "assess" your students? How would you communicate this assessment to the students' chosen university or employer? I would argue that your job is NOT to "assess." Your job is to TEACH. The things that you are required to teach are clearly spelled out in the Sunshine State Standards...and these things are measurable. In other words, it is absolutely possible to determine if a student in your class has or has not mastered a particular concept. This is what standardized testing is designed to do. Now, you can say that Johnny didn't learn how to interpret a pie chart because he came from a bad home environment. Fine. But if EVERY Johnny in your class can't interpret a pie chart...and yet MOST of the Johnny's in the classroom next door DO know how to interpret a pie chart...then this indicates that the real problem most likely isn't the students...it's their teacher. And this is what standardized testing can show us. It can show us who can teach, and who can't.

        May 18, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Phox

      I think the idea of tenure and the protection afforded by teachers' unions is grossly misunderstood. At least in the state I work, tenured teachers can be fired with cause. This keeps school districts from letting go a veteran teacher so that a younger, cheaper teacher can be hired. That said, if you are not doing your job you are not immune to being fired. I know far more teachers that go beyond what is expected than those lazy ones you claim are so rampant. I won't argue your claim, but I will say it is most certainly not the way you describe everywhere. The reality is there are good and bad teachers just like there are good and bad doctors, lawyers, accountants, and McDonalds employees. I would never be so presumptuous to speak for all teachers, but from a personal standpoint what I find so frustrating is the fact that teachers and schools are in large part being judged by the results of a single test. I teach high school English, and I can say with absolute certainty that many of the kids that don't pass our state reading assessment each year fail to do so because they lack the motivation to try on the test, not because they lack the skills and knowledge necessary to pass the test. Is this the teacher's fault? Maybe so. Even if you blame a student's lack of motivation on the teacher, the test is still failing to accurately represent what the student does and does not know.

      May 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • bella11

      Of course, teachers can be fired!! Who told you this nonsense? Bunch of Republicans I guess, who want to finish with unions. They always spread the lies and you are so gullible that you believe them.

      May 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • xeno

      There are certainly some bad apples that should be fired, but I would say the majority of teachers are there because they love to teach, want to see kids learn, but are so stifled by tests, overfilled classrooms, lazy parents, etc., that they end up with little time left for actual education.

      May 18, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • David

      Laura, you're an idiot.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • David

      Laura, you believe and repeat what the media says...please think for yourself.

      May 19, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  57. Adam

    What does standardized testing test? Standardized tests test how well you do on standardized tests. The end.

    May 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Schmedley

      That's the usual response from someone who didn't do well...

      May 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
      • Me

        @ Schmedley– I have done amazing on every standardized test I've ever taken. I've done well in graduate chem courses, now a med student....

        Standardized tests only test your ability to take standardized tests.

        Now you've heard it from someone you can't accuse of giving the stock response for people who do poorly.

        Standardized tests would be a great measure of how good teachers are if they weren't high stakes– teachers now teach to a test, they do NOT teach subjects, ideals, core skills, or anything else.

        So what we're really evaluating is twofold, I guess:
        1) How well teachers are able to educate principles they don't decide on or spend time learning themselves, let alone to teach.
        2) Which teachers are willing to sacrifice a real desire to ACTUALLY teach for the need to be sure their kids test well.

        It's a flawed system.

        May 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  58. Renait

    “I think we’re all going to learn from it and they’re going to continue to adapt and approve upon it,” said Cunningham. Oh Peter. How sad. The word is "improve," not "approve." You are now officially the poster boy for the problem.

    May 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  59. jim

    When you try to tell the world that you should be paid more because of your importance to the education of the nation's children, you should be ready to suffer the consequences when the little beggars don't learn.

    May 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • trushton

      Where is the child in all of this? We are assuming they have no volition in their own lives. It is never simple when addressing human endeavors. Some students are challenged by poverty, abuse, neglect and a host of other inequalities. To suggest they will and should perform at the level of a child from a good home is perposterous.

      May 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
      • markinfl

        Yet it has been made a core component of judging success or failure. So now teachers are supposed to be able to undo all of the negative influences in a child's life and teach them at the same level as the kids with all the breaks. Oh yeah, and they are to do this without a budget while teaching 15 to 20 more kids at the same time. The teachers are being set up to fail by those measures. The teachers in well off schools will be rewarded having hte luck to teach in a school with well supported students.

        May 18, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  60. Robert Krampf

    It is definitely time for high stakes tests to go away. Just take a look at the problems with Florida's Science FCAT. http://thehappyscientist.com/blog/problems-floridas-science-fcat-test

    May 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  61. NeighborOfTigerMoms

    Standardized tests have become THE measurement of success from grade school to SATs for college entrance. A "successful" teacher teaches to the test, so we get a nation of clones. Cash strapped schools cut out everything not on the test, so forget about developing well rounded children. The arts and vocational classes are often underfunded, relying on donations to keep the programs running. I fear we are developing a generation that is only good at taking tests, but that skill won't translate to real life.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • jim

      They AREN'T good at taking tests, they are moderately skilled at MEMORIZING tests. There is a difference.

      May 18, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  62. teacher

    I am all for using a simple tool to measure skill level of students. I am not in favor of having my skills being evaluated based on scores for students who don't like to take tests so they play the "fill in the bubble game", randomly marking answers so they can be finished. As a teacher for at-risk students in a large urban district, I would easily say half of my high school students play the bubble game during these tests, there is no way anyone can force a teeanger to do anything they do not want to do. As it is very difficult to find qualified teachers for this student population, let's face it, tough students with behavior issues do not make a very attractive environment for many teachers, by using these tests to evaluate those who are there will lead to forcing those out that are able to do well with these students. Basing teacher performance on totally useless test scores, as they do not measure any skill other than the student's ability to color in a bubble, will only lead experienced, capable teachers being replaced by more inexperienced teachers who do not necessarily have the skills to work with them successfully. This will only make the job of finding, hiring and retaining quality teachers for the neediest of our students even more difficult than it already is.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Laura

      That's a shame. Unfortunate that these kids care so little about learning and challenging themselves so they can have a better chance in life.

      May 18, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  63. BOBINCAL

    Politicians don’t write the tests; teachers do. If the tests do not actually measure a student’s knowledge of a subject, then change the test. I find it hard to believe that a group of experienced teachers cannot compose a test in a subject that is valid.
    When I was in high school, my homework was graded, we were tested periodically, our classroom participation, writing skills, ability to learn and apply math and scientific principles were evaluated. If a student is getting A’s and B’s in the above, and flunks the standard test, clearly he “tanked the test” and it’s not the teacher’s fault.
    It was “never intended for the test scores to be the only measure by which teachers are judged.” This is true of all occupations. When I got an annual review, my raise was based never based just on one factor.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • markinfl

      Who told you teachers write the tests? They are written by corporations that make a lot of money on them.

      May 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  64. Julnor

    Wouldn't it make sense if every student throughout the country took the same test? Then every student, parent, teacher and school adminstrator would know exactly where they stand. Maybe 4th, 8th and 12th grade.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  65. Julnor

    People bemoan high stakes testing and then say our schools should be more like Europe. Having lived in Germany I can tell you that at the age of 12 the kids take a test that basically determines whether they are going to fix cars or get their PhD in Physics. After that test the kids are separated by ability in different schools in different towns. There were proposals a few years ago to put the schools in the same town, but there was puplic uproar. Kids can move between schools, but it comes with a stigma. Your future is set by a test at age 12. Talk about high stakes.

    May 18, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • CJ

      And honestly thats how it should be. Not everyone is cut out to get a PhD in Physics. Like it or not we all have different abilities, some more valuable intelectually then others. Some people simply are destined to fix cars, and to send them through college either at state expense or by wracking up massibe student debt isnt worth it. There should be a parellel trade school system for those indivudals who either dont want to, dont need to or simply cant place into a college.

      May 18, 2012 at 10:39 am |
      • Leah

        So the only value of getting a college education is to train the PhD in physics, or other "highest-level" professionals? Many people who "fix cars" have a college education that they find valuable- because they enjoy American literature, because they benefit from the critical thinking skills they learned in college when deciding who to vote for, or because they wanted to play college tennis, or because everyone in their family is a U of O "Duck"...college is worth more to most of us than our future job. I got my German Studies degree, and now I have a career that utilizes my masters degree in another field. If a career ambition was the only reason for going to college, a lot of interesting college majors probably wouldn't exist. I would argue that there is value in having a solid, multi-dimensional education- regardless of how an individual eventually chooses to earn their income. A person's choices as an adult should not be determined by a standardized test taken as a child.

        May 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • William

      Germany is not necessarily representative of all of Europe. Finland is a leading country, and rather than use standardized testing to rate anyone, they use a wide variety of methods, and have established a culture where education is critical to society, valuing the teacher as a professional, both in pay and in status. Here in the US, teachers are underpaid and now under-appreciated, and even bullied by politicians who stick their poor policies in place without thinking through what effect they will have.

      May 19, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  66. Dorn Hetzel

    The first thing that needs to happen is that kids need to not be promoted to the next grade if they can't do the work for the grade they are in. Really, there shouldn't be grades at all, but just skill levels in each major subject, and when a kid is proficient at one level in English, they move up to the next, and so on for each subject, separately. Some kids are great at Mathematics and not so great at English, or the other way around, etc. Let each kid progress at their own pace and let each subject classroom be filled with kids that are all at similar levels of achievement in that subject, then kids can be engaged and not bored because they already know what is being taught or lost because it is too far beyond where they are at.

    May 18, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Teacher from CA

      As a teacher, I would welcome a system such as you have described! Students do NOT learn the same way and at the same pace. Social promotions have destroyed the educational system. I have students in 8th grade who still do not know their multiplication tables and are expected to be doing algebra.

      May 18, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  67. James C Edgar

    A pretty good article. Now – Who is behind this big push for standardized testing? Politicians and the for profit companies that create them. Professional educators have long known that standardized tests are flawed by definition. Take the SAT – it has minimal value that lasts for 1 year: It statistically predicts how a college freshman will perform. That is it. On top of all of this we have allowed educational psychologists and the American Psychology Association (APA) to dictate how our teachers teach and to meander all over the classroom micromanaging the "front line commander." America's world ranking in education has been steadily falling ever since we started electing school boards, letting the federal government intervene, using standardized testing – and worst of all, taking teaching away from teachers.

    May 18, 2012 at 7:08 am |
  68. Michele Galloway

    I think that the tests would effectively measure a child's progress if it exclusively tested the child's increase in knowledge rather than the child's ranking against it's peers. Testing a child's increase in knowledge based on whether they have learned the same material as their peers, is not a good measure of their progress. There are so many variables to consider when when measuring horizontally, such as income level, access to technology, parents' educational level, the amount of exposure to various cultures, and etc. are variables that come to mind. But if we could measure the child's body of knowledge from one point in time to another, and measure the increase in knowledge from, for example, 3rd grade to their own results in 4th grade, it would be a better measure to show the rate of increase in knowledge based on the education practice. % increase in the child's body of knowledge based on their own scores would determine if the learning techniques were working or not, and give teachers the ability to practice an art, more than a discipline. Kinetic learners may need to jump up and down to learn to count, some may have to sing to learn to add. Some may need to develop a number system, like Einstein, to understand language. Nevertheless, capturing the the increase in knowledge based on an individual's performance is better that measuring based on the group. Maybe we can build more self esteem and self respect allowing for the individual to have a chance and building a productive life.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • skastenbaumcnn

      @Michele Galloway I heard that from several teachers and academics. There is a desire for a testing system that tracks individual students over time rather then judges them against their peers.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  69. shaistytime

    A classroom curriculum that is warped around taking standardized tests is completely backward. Given today's level of technology, it should be possible to build the tests dynamically based on the class's curriculum instead.

    I also think that part of the problem is the advance notice school's receive. If the test is supposed to be a snapshot of how effective education is, do the test on a week's notice at most. That way there is none of this "spend 2 months teaching the students how to take the test".

    Then just get rid of the archaic "grades" system (1-12) and you might have a shot at getting some real change going.

    May 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  70. Solo

    Teachers are actually provided with incentives to get their classes to achieve better results – often, it's a fine line similar to fixing a test and it should not be tolerated. But, it is not regulated that much because of taxpayer outrage (people like myself) who are demanding real accountability for a change. Now that they cannot just guess on figures of success or failure, they are panicked.
    Once the testing is done, and when Blacks and Hispanics do not perform well, then the district or state protests begin and the cycle of "reviewing and revising" testing and standards begin. It's a mess and an expensive one at that!

    May 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  71. Claire Alba

    There is absolutely too much at stake – especially considering how badly the tests are written. I've been informed that already 20 questions from the 4th grade math test have been eliminated because they were badly written. Our kids are losing valuable time in the classroom to prepare for these tests. 6 days of tests that not only don't reveal much about what our kids are learning or how the teachers teach, but also displaces the entire rest of the school since all classrooms are needed to spread out the children for privacy during the test.

    Furthermore, children with disabilities are graded exactly the same as other children. They may not perform as well for a number of reasons. That means teachers of inclusion classes may received a lower grade while they may be talented instructors. That being said – no teacher's career nor any students' promotion to the next grade should ever hinge on performance on standardized tests.

    Now Pearsons wants to come back to the school in June to use our kids as guinea pigs to try out future test questions. Parents can opt out of this though. Or, alternatively, send an invoice to Pearsons for your child's time. If anyone is interested, a friend of mine has one ready to go – just fill in the blanks!

    May 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  72. skastenbaumcnn

    Steve Kastenbaum here, the reporter who produced this story. Andi – your point was echoed by many of the educators, school administrators, parents and the spokesman at the US Dept. of Ed.... Many factors determine how a child performs on a test. There seems to be universal agreement that one test alone can not tell you how a student is performing nor how well a teacher is performing. But there seemed to be a difference of opinion among the interviewees over how much value should be placed on the test scores, meaning how much should they factor in to measuring a student's progress, measuring a teacher's performance and determining whether a school is meeting or exceeding expectations.

    In New York another criticism of standardized tests revolves around how school systems determine whether a teacher is any good. The common complaint I heard in my interviews was that teachers with students who routinely outperform there peers are still expected to show growth among those students year after year. In other words, even though the students are already scoring much higher then their peers the expectation is that they'll continue to raise their scores by tiny percentages. If the students don't meet those expectations, if enough of them in one class fall below the mark by just one wrong answer, that teacher is at risk of being labeled as not doing a good job. According to the teachers and principals I spoke with, based on the scores those teachers would be considered poor performers even though their students are consistently outperforming their peers. Keep in mind, though, that principals do perform teacher evaluations through classroom observations. So the standardized tests in English and math aren't the only factors in determining a teacher's effectiveness, at least in New York.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  73. GreedKnight

    I have to agree with test taking as an evaluation of teachers. There will always be under achievers and bad test takers but these are the outliers. As long as the test can show an improvement or progression of the students then i see no fault with them. I do however see fault with teachers cheating for their students to do well and having money connected to test scores. That is just an open door to a bad situation. Perhaps too students should evaluate their teachers ability to teach . Anyone who has had a bad teacher knows that they have.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Chucki188

      Take a C or D student who doesnt do his homework or study for exams that counts for a grade in the class and has an impact is academic future, now ask him to sit for 3 hour sessions in Math, Science, History, and English where there is ZERO accountablity. The student can bubble in all C's and still move on to the next grade. The colleges that look at Standardized scores dont scare the the C and D student because they will end up in Junior College anyway. The incentive for a studnet to do well in not there. Now take those scores and use them to "grade" a teacher on how well they performed their job over the school year, seems a bit unfair. I was nominated for teacher of the year at my school, given many teacher of the month awards, and been given the distinction of being a master teacher, all things that say I am a good teacher, but last year I had a student bubbled in smilie faces on the exam becasue he didnt want to take the time to really try on the exam. He was a B student in the class who liked me as a teacher. Should his score really reflect my ability to be a teacher. That would be like asking someone to dig ditches all day with no pay and then evaluate their bosses performace on how many ditches you dug. NONSENSE!!!!

      May 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  74. PublicSchoolTeacher

    So the teacher, principal, and school are rated on the test scores. What does the test taker get? You know, the one that has to sit for hours thinking and filling in bubbles. The one doing the work. Maine uses Jr year SAT scores. But what about the kid who knows he's not going to college? How about the kid who isn't worried because he'll just retake the test in the Fall? Where is the motivation for the kid to give her/his best effort?

    Then there are those Graduation requirement tests. A kid arrives at High School (grade 9) with a 5th-grade reading level. Four years later the kid has a 10th-grade reading level (that's five grades in four years for a kid who is probably a little slow to be in that situation in the first place) but still fails the graduation exam with it's 11th or 12th-grade reading expectations. Does that mean that the teachers and school suck? The kid that did all that work and still failed will likely tell you they do....

    As far as resisting change..... Not all change is for the better.

    Here's something to think about. Nobody trusts government to do anything right. One of my favorite jokes is, "If you put Augusta (Maine's capital) in charge of a desert, they'll create a shortage of sand." But when some politician starts talking education reform it goes on the plus side of his election chances. Figure out that logic.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  75. Andi

    Teacher's aside, smart children that are good test takers will almost always score well. How do we rate the knowledge on a child who may be just as smart, but is a poor test taker? I agree that there is too much emphasis on standardized tests, but we need to find a way to extract, notice and define that knowledge within the children that may face test taking obstacles. Any good suggestions?

    May 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • PublicSchoolTeacher

      The answer to your question is a four-year high school transcript that has a variety of challenging classes.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
      • Annie

        @PublicSchoolTeacher, i agree with you!

        May 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
      • markinfl

        Bingo.

        May 18, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • skastenbaumcnn

      Andi – I meant to post my response as a reply to your comment. It's now a few entries above your comment.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Joe

      that an excuse i"ve heard for 50 years,all children should should test equaly.STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND DO YOUR JOB.

      May 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm |