What are the purpose of tests?


Testing is part of life. Doctors give tests in order to get relevant information about a patient. You need to take a driver’s test in order to get a license. And teachers give tests. So I am not opposed to testing. I am opposed to how “educational reformers” are using the results of high stakes tests. There are too many variables to measure teacher, or students’ or school performance.

The purpose of a test is to determine what to do next. If you take a medical examination and do not do well, the doctor will recommend a second evaluation to see if the second test validates the first. If you fail the first driving test, you will get a second chance or a third chance to pass.

But high stakes tests only results in things that we already know – that students from low-income, minority-families will, on average, perform less well than students from higher-income families who are educated in better-equipped schools with more experienced staff.

But educational reformers want to hold teachers in low performing schools solely responsible for poor test results. In New Mexico, where I live, our Secretary of Education wants to link teacher salaries to low performance rather than improving the schools by supplying them with additional more experienced teachers, more services like social workers, more recently published and sufficient number of text books, and more technology.

Blaming teachers for poor results is like blaming a fireman for being at the scene of a fire – holding those responsible for something they did not cause.

It is time to stop fixing the blame and to start fixing the problem.