Spring is in the air.
At my son’s school, that means it’s time for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests. These are the standardized tests created by the No Child Left Behind Act that determine if a school is doing its job in educating children. If too many kids have lousy scores, the school gets put on the “Adequate Yearly Progress” list and will eventually get penalized financially.
That creates a perverted incentive in the school system. The main metric for a publicly-funded school’s success in Minnesota is the MCA. If a school can churn out illiterate trench-diggers, they will get increased funding as long as the test scores are good.
For a full two weeks before this test, the school effectively shut down the education program to prepare for the MCA test. That’s two weeks of studying for a set of standardized tests that focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic. I’m a fan of schools prioritizing the three Rs over other subjects, but that’s not what they did.
They spent two weeks studying testing strategies, not the material contained in the test.
In science class, they covered essential scientific elements like “Answer all of the easy questions first, so you can go back and spend time on the hard ones later.”
Spanish class covered verb usage similar to “When the time is almost out on the test, answer ‘C’ for all of the hard questions you have left, que?”
They weren’t being educated, they were learning the most effective way to solve a test to gain funding for next year.
For 2 weeks.
That’s not reading practice, or reviewing the parts of speech, or covering the necessary math skills. It’s “This is a #2 pencil. This is a circle. Practice until lunch.”
Is this really what NCLB was trying to accomplish? Standardized tests to measure school proficiency should be a surprise. Let’s randomly send in test proctors to take over a school for a day and see what the kids have actually learned.