Our Growing Testocracy

This story reveals exactly what is wrong with public education today, and why the media doesn't seem to get it either:

Test Scores, Grades Don't Jibe: WASHINGTON (AP) -- Large percentages of high school seniors are posting weak scores on national math and reading tests even though more of them are taking challenging courses and getting higher grades in school, two reports released Thursday show.

"The transcript study shows high school students are earning more credits, taking more challenging courses and getting higher grade-point averages than in the past. It is unclear whether student performance has improved or whether grade inflation or something else might be responsible, the report said."

It's not unclear to those who have studied the growing testocracy in this country (the increasing reliance on standardized test scores as status placement in society). Notice in the story there is absolutely no mention that perhaps standardized tests themselves are flawed, as if daring to criticize the almighty standardized test is just too taboo in our society.

Grade inflation could be a part of the discrepancy above, but more than likely it's the fact that standardized tests don't measure anything more than your test taking ability. And that perhaps most standardized test scores, from the SAT to the rote NCLB exams given after every grade, 3-8, aren't indicative of anything remotely resembling aptitude, future success in academics, or even as a barometer of future success in life.

In other words, it's entirely possible to take Advance Placement studies, have gpa's that are astronomically high, and still do poorly on standardized measurements. Why? Because the standardized tests are flawed, specious and bias on a number of levels. I've written previously on this and the work of Jonathan Kozol, but Kozol lays out a damning indictment of the over-reliance on standardized testing in this country, and what it's doing to future generations of students (including a massive re-segregation of the schools).

Critics fear we're creating a future generation of student automatons, wound-up toy soldiers who practice rote memorization and drill all day in the hopes of performing adequately on the next standardized test. Those who do, as Kozol points out, tend to be overwhelmingly upper middle class, suburban white kids, while those who don't perform as well are the poor and working classes, disproportionally minority, rural and inner-city kids.

To the story's credit, they do mention this: "As in the past, the math and reading scores showed large achievement gaps between white students and minorities." But one is left to scratch their head in wonderment about why.

This is why many feel the NCLB should be scrapped and more accurate measurements for students who dare to "think outside the box" implemented instead. "Teaching to the test" and rote memorization are not what learning and education are about. We are setting up a future generation of kids who won't dare to question anything related to authority, which is even more frightening.

I'm curious what everyone else thinks: did your SAT's or other standardized test scores match up with your gpa, how you did in college, grad school, or where you are today professionally?


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