Last week Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro wrote about new Seattle Schools Superintendent José Banda and his affinity for standardized testing. In the post, Shapiro draws parallels between Banda and his predecessor, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, and questions what the quest for the "data" produced by standardized testing will really do for Seattle school kids.
[Banda] believes in "data," which as school started this week he said the district would use in ever more sophisticated ways. It's perhaps understandable why education technocrats have jumped on the data bandwagon. The idea conveys science and progress, a notion that what you're doing is based on indisputable "evidence" rather than the latest teaching fad.
Unfortunately, the love of data is a fad in itself, as is its corollary--testing, lots of it-- since data doesn't come from nowhere. Under Goodloe-Johnson, the district instituted the thrice-yearly MAP test, run by a non-profit on whose board she sat. That's on top of the annual test instituted by the state. The tests have sometimes been almost back to back, causing many teachers to grumble about losing weeks of actual instruction time.
Given the fact the use of standardized testing is always a hot-button issue, it's not surprising that Shapiro's post generated some feedback.
As commenter dorainseattle writes:
Excellent piece Nina.
I would like to add that not only do the students lose out on valuable class time, that is shortened with every budget cut, but they also lose out on their libraries.
Because most schools do not have computer labs, the libraries are used so that the students can take the computerized test. Because the entire school population has to take the test, it can be two to three weeks that the students are not allowed to use the library. Not only do they miss the face to face time with the teacher, they also have no access to library books and other resources that the library provides.
One other thing. The maker of the MAP test, NWEA, has stated that the MAP test was not designed to be used to evaluate a teacher's performance.
Instead of fighting this whole testing regime that has not worked anywhere else in this country, the union leaders have kowtowed to the moneyed business leaders and ed reformers who want to see "results". Our union needs to take a clue from the Chicago Teachers Union. One of their mandates is to be fairly evaluated but not by how their students do on a test.