Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization
Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas
Chapter Eleven: Telling Time with a Broken Clock: Moving Beyond Standardized Testing
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Telling Time WITH A Broken Clock
Moving Beyond Standardized Testing
“The more we learn about standardized testing, particularly in its high-stakes incarnation, the more likely we are to be appalled.”
What do standardized test scores really tell us? Like many public policy issues, this is a complex question—yet too many people assume to know the answer. Whole school jurisdictions and entire nations define themselves by their standardized test results, including provincially administered examinations and international instruments such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). All of these programs, justified by their so-called impartiality and objectivity, share the assumption that the scores must be the public’s “transparent” window into the quality of our schools.
Bestselling author and blogger Seth Godin reminds us that the worst kind of clock is a clock that randomly runs fast or slow. “If there’s no clock,” Godin writes, “we go seeking the right time. But a wrong clock? We’re going to be tempted to accept what it tells us” (Godin, 2012). Godin’s message is that tracking the wrong data or misreading good data can get us into trouble. What if standardized test scores aren’t telling us what we think they are telling us? What if the scores are illusions that are giving us false confidence? What if our reliance on standardized testing to judge our schools is like relying...
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