District Administration May 2018 - 12

OnTopic

Daniel Koretz
By Tim Goral

Why testing has failed
our schools
Educators have been forced to conflate test
prep with good instruction

Pressure to raise achievement test scores
has become the driving force behind
what is taught and how. Worse, the
results from these tests reveal only
a fraction of the overall picture of
whether students are learning-and
whether teachers are effective in their
jobs, says Daniel Koretz. As one of the
nation's foremost experts on education
testing-and the Henry Lee Shattuck
professor of education at the Harvard
Graduate School of Education-
Koretz says the whole idea of testbased accountability has failed. In
The Testing Charade: Pretending to
Make Schools Better (University of
Chicago Press, 2017), Koretz says the
pressure to produce results often leads
to outright cheating.
"Test-based accountability has
become an end in itself in American
education," Koretz says, "unmoored
from clear thinking about what
should be measured, how it should be
measured, or how testing can fit into
a rational plan for evaluation and
improving our schools."

DAmag.me/failed

12 May 2018

I have to say, reading your book made
me angry at times.
Well, thank you. I have to admit, I wrote
it in part because I was angry. Probably
came through.
You've been studying testing for about
30 years, and you tried to warn of the
misuse of standardized tests early on.
It's depressing. My concern was that
it was clear that using tests in this way
wasn't going to work, that it was going
to generate serious side effects, and that,
ironically, it was going to undermine
the value of tests. In 1987, I published
something that said that one of the consequences of high-stakes testing is that
test scores will be less valuable. And that
has been true.
That's Campbell's Law that you wrote
about in the book.
Campbell was one of the founders of the
Scientific Study of Program Evaluations.
He said, "The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decisionmaking, the more subject it will be to
corruption pressures and the more apt it
will be to distort and corrupt the social
processes it is intended to monitor."
We've known for a long time that this
would happen. The majority of people
who study incentive systems in a variety
of fields know and accept that it happens. That makes it even more striking
that people in education have pretended
that it doesn't.

Hence the word "charade" in your
book's title.
Exactly. It's pretense. Everywhere I
turned, people in education were acting
as though this weren't true, even though
they had evidence to suggest it was.
They found it inconvenient, so they
pretended it wasn't there.
You write that standardized testing
has value, but not in the way we're
currently using it.
Standardized tests were designed, primarily, to monitor and diagnose. And
they work pretty well for that. For
instance, at the same time that racial
differences in achievement have been
narrowing, socioeconomic status differences-more specifically, the gap
between rich and poor kids-have been
growing. And we know that because of
standardized tests.
So we need to measure what matters in
multiple ways. How can we get more
valid assessments?
What I always say to people is, even before you get to that question, ask yourself
what you want to see when you walk
into a classroom.
If you can't describe what you want
teachers to do, and what you want them
to do better, there's no point in even
starting to design an accountability
system. When I visit a classroom and
see kids absolutely bored to tears, then I
know that the classroom is not acceptDistrict Administration


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration May 2018

District Administration May 2018 - Cover1
District Administration May 2018 - Cover2
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