Monday, September 24, 2012

Thirteen hours of testing?

Iowa’s Department of Education plans to start requiring districts to shift from using the Iowa Assessments (formerly known as the ITBS tests) to the new so-called “Smarter Balanced Assessments.” Karen W. reports that the new tests might more than double the amount of time the kids spend taking the tests. Read the details here.

The sheer magnitude of testing time has now led the makers of the tests to offer two versions: one long, and one (relatively) short (but still longer than the Iowa Assessments). You can hear the disappointment in the voices of the tests’ defenders. “You asked for authentic assessments,” one said. “Authentic assessments take time.” Of the shorter version, another “assessment expert” said, “Once you start down that path, you may start losing the advantages of a groundbreaking assessment system and it might start resembling the testing systems we have now.” Hmm.

And to the person with a hammer, every problem is a nail. If you’re a true believer in the centrality of standardized testing to education, why stop at thirteen hours? Could you ever have too much? It’s hard to do cost-benefit analysis when all you see is benefits. Have these assessment experts done any, er, assessment of all the effects of our obsession with standardized testing?

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