Educational data, for the most part, is worthless

At a time when we are spending more and more taxpayers’ money on standardized tests and technology to enable us to take those standardized tests (and using the results of the tests to determine whether teachers are succeeding), the reformers are not letting a major fact stand in their way- the tests are worthless. During my years as a teacher, I saw far too much time devoted to meetings in which administrators had teachers pore over the results of poorly written standardized tests to determine what they were going to teach and how they were going to teach it. It was time that would have been far more productive had it been used to to work with individual students or fine tune lesson plans.

An article in the Washington Post addresses the problem of educational data:

Standardized tests given to K-12 students are not without merit. They can function as clear indicators of basic academic competencies. And they can play an important role as diagnostic tools. But they capture only a fraction of life in schools. Built almost exclusively around multiple-choice questions, such tests tell us nothing about a student’s ability to think or write or persuade, to perform experiments or conduct research, to paint, or to play an instrument. They provide no insight into a school’s social climate, its academic orientation, or its general culture. And, as any teacher can explain, the testing and accountability movement has also been plagued by a number of unintended consequences. The school curriculum has narrowed. Test-prep now takes up an inordinate amount of instructional time. And teacher autonomy has withered.

Missouri is diving even further into data at all costs with the recent decision by the State Board of Education to not only buy standardized tests from McGraw-Hill, but also to buy the company’s practice tests, called Acuity. It guarantees that Missouri children will spend more and more time compiling more and more useless data, at the expense of learning. We are reaching the point where education will no longer hold any joy for teachers or students, and that’s when the game is over.


Reprinted from The Turner Report, by permission of the author.