Minnesota's testing regimen not worth cost

  • Article by: Katherine Koch-Laveen
  • Updated: April 23, 2013 - 8:45 PM

A former Minnesota teacher of the year weighs in on testing debate.

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pumiceApr. 23, 13 8:45 PM

Re: "Is removing students from classrooms to test and diverting instructional dollars to testing the best way to close [the achievement] gap?" Good question, Ms. Koch-Laveen. All evidence points to a short answer, "No."

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fatredneckApr. 23, 1310:27 PM

The problem is there is a hard core of culturally isolated students in cities and in rural areas who are by-passed by our otherwise excellent educational system. Testing, however inefficient for the majority of students, is an attempt to come to grips with what is going on with the students who don't learn well within the existing system. Without data that problem will never be solved. We need to do more that decry testing, if we get rid of testing we need to find a better approach to identifying the roots of the problem with the students who are being left out. And whether it's done with testing or some other approach, this can't be done costlessly. As respected as is Ms. Koch-Laveen in Apple Valley, she does not tell us how to address the students who do not perform well on, or even take, the ACTs.

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hermajestyApr. 23, 1311:01 PM

It would be an awfully thick teacher who couldn't tell which of his/her students were doing well and which ones weren't. If you want to identify the students who aren't doing well, ask the teachers.

I taught in a college that asked instructors to identify freshmen who had midterm grades of D or F each semester. The list of students who were getting doing poorly was then circulated among the faculty. Every year, I had a couple of students who just didn't seem to get anything, and I'd wonder if they even belonged in college. Sure enough, such students would show up on the list, some of them flunking all their courses.

Anyway, I know several retired K-12 schoolteachers, and some of them took early retirement when their administrators started demanding that they "teach to the test" and just drill, drill, drill day in and day out.

Sure, you need a little bit of drilling on basic skills, but if that's all you do, you end up with students who can sound out words but can't understand what they're reading or students who know their multiplication tables but can't apply them to real-world situations (such as, "If gas is $3.75, how much will 15 gallons cost?") or who can conjugate verbs but can't speak a foreign language.

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chuckdancerApr. 24, 13 7:08 AM

This young lady doesn't understand that testing is not for students or their teachers. These standardized tests are for people outside the education process but who are "experts", politicians, and ideologues.

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zippy1950Apr. 24, 13 8:14 AM

I hope that Ms. Koch-Laveen can teach chemistry better than she can articulate educational testing philosophy. Standardized testing provides an important benchmark to indicate whether students have mastered age/grade appropriate content. It is the responsibility of parents, students, and teachers to use standardized test results as indicators of where knowledge and conceptual understanding is lacking. Her agrument just doesn't make sense. Its logic is similar to saying that no one should get blood sugar tests because high blood sugar levels do not force anyone to change their life-style behavior in what they eat or whether they exercise.

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swmnguyApr. 24, 13 8:44 AM

Standardized testing is snake oil. As "hermajesty" points out, teachers can tell which kids are doing well and which aren't. We did just fine without massive programs of standardized testing for thousands of years.

Standardized tests are created and owned by private, for-profit companies which have figured out how to snooker gullible politicians, including school administration executives. The companies sell these tests as an "objective" measure of student's learning, so the education executives don't have to take the responsibility of assessing learning themselves; they can just point to the test results. Meanwhile, the private corporations make off with large piles of public money.

Sad that the main business opportunities remaining in America involve fraud and seizing tax money better spent on actual services, but that's what standardized testing is really all about.

As for "The Achievement Gap," every teacher knows it's all about poverty. Poverty, as any Conservative knows, is far more than a mere lack of money. It's a mind-set of short-term, base-level survival. The poverty mindset keeps you alive for the next couple of days, but encourages choices that prevent long-term success. Kids growing up in poverty have never done well in school, for thousands of years. Giving our education funding to private corporations isn't going to solve that. Making our economy more efficient is the only thing that can solve that, but that's not in the interests of the elite.

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SnippetApr. 24, 1310:35 AM

>> Good question, Ms. Koch-Laveen. All evidence points to a short answer, "No."<<< What will, pray tell?

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gandalf48Apr. 24, 1310:48 AM

Creativity is key, we need to reform schools so that we can focus in on the basic skills at younger ages and then start to teach teamwork, collaborative skills by creating real things. We need students to be able to write short stories, create software programs, operate a drone/robot and do some bio-engineering in upper level high school courses.

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dschachenmeyerApr. 24, 13 1:22 PM

From the article, "The testing program needs to be held accountable for its failures. Testing has not erased the achievement gap." -- The author is missing the point of the tests. The tests are not designed to erase the achievement gap. Rather they are a measure to determine achievement gap and show specific areas of need. The author correctly points out that more testing will not close the achievement gap. Again, it's not designed to. That can only be accomplished through better teaching. However, if you eliminate testing which is an objective measure of the achievement gap, how will you ever know if your teaching methods are successful?

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gandalf48Apr. 24, 13 2:52 PM

dschachenmeyer - [From the article, "The testing program needs to be held accountable for its failures. Testing has not erased the achievement gap." -- The author is missing the point of the tests. The tests are not designed to erase the achievement gap. Rather they are a measure to determine achievement gap and show specific areas of need. The author correctly points out that more testing will not close the achievement gap. Again, it's not designed to. That can only be accomplished through better teaching. However, if you eliminate testing which is an objective measure of the achievement gap, how will you ever know if your teaching methods are successful?] *** Be careful, you'll anger the teachers union which fights against any sort of accountability what-so-ever. Honestly we need to go into a different direction with education but it needs to be done through innovation and these standardized tests should be passed before moving on to the more interesting and specific projects. We need more teacher accountability, merit pay and pay based on material taught (a computer programming course might require more funds to have a subject matter expert teach that course).

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