Accountability Is Necessary and It’s Here to Stay

Standardized testing is a part of state law since…forever. If you want a high school diploma from a public school in this country, you must take tests. Tests reveal how much you know, how well you know it, how much you’ve grown and if you are ready to move on.

I seriously don’t put much emphasis on standardized tests in my household. This may be short-sighted, but I figured if I do my job and teachers do their job, we are all going to be just fine. Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I are well aware of what the tests are (well…kinda) and when they are coming. I set an expectation that they must respect the process by putting forth their best effort, and I’m sure to send them to school well rested with a full belly. Outside of that…no comment.

I have come to realize that my almost flippant attitude toward standardized testing is because I happen to know my kids won’t fail. How do I know this? One could say we check most of the boxes. My husband and I are college educated, middle-class, speak English, earn a decent household income and live in a middle-class suburban neighborhood with “good” schools.

We are a part of a “middle-class privilege” pool which thousands of children of poverty do not enjoy. Their parents don’t get to rest as easily at night knowing everything is okay in the classroom. And, yes, there is a heavy racial correlation to this subject.

But is the fact that I know my kids will pass the test enough for me to opt out of caring? What’s the big deal? We all had to take tests. And, you’re not getting into any decent college without tests. Not to mention earning scholarships or grants; a topic which is very relevant to all middle-class families as we sit in the tax bracket that pays for everything and qualifies for nothing.

This is not the “testing” of our childhood…we have to care!

The Issue With Testing

The major issue with testing revolves around over-testing, teaching to the test and the use of test scores. It is not unusual to find, depending on the age of your child, that they can be administered upwards of a dozen standardized tests in one year. There are tests before the test to prepare for the test. School funding, teacher evaluations, school grades and neighborhood property values have all been tied back in some capacity to student achievement on standardized assessments. That’s a lot of pressure.

Two weeks ago, my daughter’s advanced math teacher openly announced she will stop using the textbook we all really love by mid-year to turn her attention to the state-standardized test recommended book. So basically, this group of kids who are clearly capable of doing advanced-level math will be diverted to grade-level standards, getting only half a year of the rigor they deserve. The classroom experience diminishes; scope of learning narrows. This testing thing just became my business.

So, let’s just do away with tests!!!

The Reason for the Test

Hold on. Not so fast. The idea of testing and school accountability has deep roots. It arose as a way to hold a mirror up to America of the racial inequity in education after schools were desegregated, and to catalyze change.

The racial divide has narrowed significantly since schools have been held accountable to policymakers and taxpayers. But, the issue remains that students of color still lag significantly behind their White peers. And in recent years, the progress of actively-closing the racial gap has flat-lined.

Accountability is necessary and it’s here to stay. But, maybe the season for simply measuring the way we have has passed. Is standardized testing enough? Is it getting the same results it initially did? Has it passed its time?

We know more than our forefathers ever did about the complexity of learning, the challenges that face our communities of poverty and the value of various types of performance achievement. We also know that schools cannot do it alone. Social justice issues are never changed by any single institution.

Accountability exists to ensure students get the education they deserve. I, personally, am eagerly anticipating the arrival of Accountability 2.0 version. It’s time for an upgrade.

An original version of this post appeared on Education Post.
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