California's new standardized tests are flawed, but still important
The modest rise in California’s standardized test scores this year was mildly gratifying but not surprising. Each time a new test is introduced, results look terrible at first. Then, as schools grow more familiar with its expectations and quirks, scores rise for several years. This was only the second year the state has released results for the revamped test, known as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress.
It’s too early to cheer or moan the state’s progress. But whether you think it’s been good or bad, this much is clear: The tests remain an important part of holding schools accountable and shouldn’t be minimized or dismissed as just a bunch of data. (Are you listening, Gov. Jerry Brown?) The concrete results from the tests force us to see truths we could otherwise avoid — especially now, as other mechanisms of accountability fall by the wayside.
For instance, California has stopped administering its high-school exit exam, which for years set at least some kind of standard for graduation, though a low one. The State Board of Education is at work on what is so far an utterly confusing new way of measuring school performance, color coded and with no clear message for parents or the public about how a school is doing. More than half the elements on the chart reflect a school’s efforts to improve learning rather than its accomplishments. Meanwhile, L.A.’s schools — and those elsewhere — have been boasting about improved graduation rates while relying heavily on often less-than-rigorous online courses and other shortcuts to make their diploma numbers look good.
Yet look at the new test scores for L.A. Unified: Only 29% of students met the standard in math and 39% in English. (Students are tested in grades 3 through 8 and again in 11thgrade.) That’s a small improvement over last year, but nowhere near good. What’s more, African American students are both scoring the worst, and improving the least.
The annual testing that obsessed public education for a decade and a half under the Obama and George W. Bush administrations went too far. Standardized tests, which are imperfect measures of learning, somehow became the be-all of a school’s worth. The federal government, and many state ones, punished schools if they failed to improve within narrow parameters and insisted that individual teachers be judged by their California's new standardized tests are flawed, but still important - LA Times: