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Diane Ravitch’s Blog: Myra Blackmon: Testing Insanity in Georgia

Politicians these days just can’t spend enough on testing. They will starve the schools of money for the arts, librarians, and nurses, while throwing millions and millions for more tests. They seem to be under the delusion that kids will learn more if they take more tests but there’s no evidence for that. (My wish: the people who commission these tests should be required to take the tests and post their scores.)

Case in point: Georgia.

In this superb article, journalist Myra Blackmon writes in OnlineAthens about the testing madness that has caused the state to shell out more than $100 million to McGraw-Hill for five years of tests. At the end of five years, state officials won’t know anything different from what they know now. And then they will buy more tests.

She writes:

“More insanity came largely from the Georgia General Assembly and an unelected Georgia State Board of Education. I’ve lost track of how many education bills have been passed the last few years, many of them mandating testing for teacher evaluation or school “grades.” Other legislation has piled on the paperwork that eats up instructional time. The testing and textbook companies have made out like bandits here, though.

“Everyone professes to hate testing, with the exception, perhaps, of the billionaires and their companies who make more money the more we test.

“Oh, yes, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees high-stakes testing as fundamental, and President Obama — whose daughters are exempt from the nightmare — doesn’t seem to care.

“If high-stakes testing is so great, why do the Obama children, as well as the children of Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation funds education “reform” initiatives, and the children of other wealthy elites go to private schools that don’t use such tests? If it’s so great for evaluating school performance, why aren’t private schools all over the country adopting the same practice and touting their test scores?”

And she adds:

“Testing has become absurd. Clarke County teachers have had to spend hours developing tests based on Student Learning Objectives that are not covered by the limited state Milestone and Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. According to Clarke County Schools Superintendent Philip Lanoue, district teachers have been required to develop, administer (often several times a year), score and enter the data for some 60 tests beyond what the state provides. But the state doesn’t look at the data beyond the summary data in the cover sheet.

“Contemplating the costs of staff time, lost instruction and implementation is mind-boggling. Little data from the required testing is practically useful to teachers, parents or administrators…..

“High-stakes testing is not about measuring “student growth” or helping teachers do a better job. It is actually a new blunt instrument, used to bludgeon schools to spend limited funds for no good reason, to beat teachers until they are ready to quit and to abuse millions of school children who have little choice.

“We must contain this lunacy before it cripples our nation for generations.”

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Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She is the Co-Founder and President of the Network for Publi...