I’m writing this now in hopes I won’t have to write a future piece that starts: “Alas, a bad idea whose time has come…”
The bad idea is ending annual testing in grades 3–8, which may emerge as a consensus response to concerns about the state of standards, assessments, and accountability.
Clearly, testing is under fire generally. AFT head Randi Weingarten wants to do away with the federal requirement that students take annual assessments. Anti-testing groups are hailing state-based “victories” in rolling back an array of assessments and accountability provisions. Even Secretary Duncan recently expressed misgivings about the amount of time being dedicated to testing.
But the specific idea of returning—regressing—to “grade-span” testing might be gaining steam. Former President Bill Clinton recently said, “I think doing one in elementary school, one in the end of middle school and one before the end of high school is quite enough if you do it right.” At least two bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives to retreat to grade-span testing: One got public support from the NEA, and the other was saluted by the AFT.
What might be even more notable is the lack of vocal defense being mustered for annual testing by long-time advocates for strong accountability. Checker Finn took to National Review Online arguing for an “accountability reboot.”
Among other things, he wrote, “It’s probably time for education reformers and policymakers to admit that just pushing harder on test-driven accountability...