President Obama recently delivered a broadside against standardized testing that might be worth further examination. “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president said in a recent town hall meeting that the Associated Press covered.
At first blush, this sounds like the knee-jerk defense of education bureaucrats avoiding accountability. Ironically, the reverse may be true.
What the president may be mistaken on is the outcome of such tests. They have not been used so much to punish schools as to reward them, whether they deserve it or not.
We have covered the manner in which standardized tests have been used and abused under President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind education laws. I have seen this up close and personal in a school my oldest daughter was enrolled in.
My stepson went through the same school in the 1990s that she was in the first decade of this century. As it happens, they both went through third grade there.
One of the fundamentals third-graders get, or should receive, is training in the times tables. My stepson got this drill for a year, my daughter for three weeks in the second half of the school year.
What she got that he did not was half a year practicing the subtraction of every number under 20 from 20. Why? Everyone could pass it and the district could then get NCLB funds.
In the meantime, she had to learn the times tables in another school, a private one which does not receive NCLB funds.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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