Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 1, 2013

Another View: Another teach-to-the-test decision

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — The latest mess-up with Michigan Education Assessment Program tests highlights again the claim made by many educators that these required tests are an expensive, time-consuming process that do little to produce better results in our public classrooms.

Livingston County educators are frustrated because they’ve been fashioning changes based on the outcomes of the latest test, which supposedly measure skill mastery of subjects such as reading and math at various class levels.

But a problem arose this year when it was discovered that the tests for several grade levels included questions that didn’t align with the Common Core Curriculum adopted in Michigan. That means students were being asked questions — and tests were graded — on subject matter that may not have been introduced in the classroom.

That made it really hard to teach to the test.

More to the point, it puts in doubt the work that districts have already done in trying to make curriculum changes based on the outcome of a flawed test. ...

Moreover, the revised scores might not arrive until the end of June.

The MEAP tests are huge time-suckers in our public schools. Some districts spend what might be considered disproportionate amounts of time preparing students — within the rules, of course — to take the tests. The pressure is high. The results of the test are often given weight as to how well a principal is doing his or her job.

The gnashing of teeth over results gets a little questionable when, as has often been the case, the tests are overhauled over the years. Or, as in this year, it’s announced that the wrong questions were included. ...

What is learned from the test? Educators will say that there are some trends that can be discerned. But by and large, the best scores come from the districts where there is higher household income, more stable households and more households that are willing able to support a nurturing learning environment. Brighton scores higher than Inkster. Bloomfield Hills scores higher than Pontiac.

Education reformers have every right to demand a way to measure the effectiveness of public schools. But way too much emphasis is placed on standardized tests. The real solution is much less easily quantified and far more difficult to achieve. It involves working with teachers, not treating them as the enemy. It involves more and better-directed training. It requires student-centered learning plans. It means more time for hands-on observation by qualified principals. It likely requires more class time, as opposed to school years that have been shrunk to as few as 170 days. ...

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Howell