Standardized Tests Leave Children Behind

Governor Jay Inslee recently called for Washington lawmakers to allow for statewide standardized test results to be included in teacher evaluations—apparently after the Obama administration threatened to withhold the state’s $40 million funding under the No Child Left Behind act in exchange for compliance.

But standardized tests are standardizing learning. And we sure as hell don’t all learn in the same way. So why are we continually evaluated as though we do?

While No Child Left Behind is an often-lambasted program, it is a massive program that was undertaken with the best intentions and has managed to accomplish a great deal in several areas.

It has undoubtedly failed, however, with its emphasis on standardized testing. Not only do students suffer under these expectations, but teachers are then evaluated based on the results of these tests—meaning real learning and connection in the classroom suffers so teachers can focus on the numbers rather than the students. Washington state has long been allowed to evaluate teachers based on the scores received on local tests, arguably a much better (albeit still flawed) measure of student progress/teacher skill. Under this more relaxed policy, schools can better match tests with their curriculum and the pace of their own classroom learning. And, ultimately, teachers can teach better, students can learn better, and test scores will improve because kids are understanding, not just memorizing.

The Obama administration does itself and the country an enormous disservice by removing the flexibility that they had previously granted from the program and rolling it back to its ineffective and draconian rigidities.