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Where's the Fairness in New Tests?

In an attempt to align curriculums with Common Core standards, fairness is conspicuously absent. The best example is New York State, which designed and administered new tests to measure student performance and teacher effectiveness ("School Standards' Debut Is Rocky, and Critics Pounce," The New York Times, Aug. 15).

The problem is that the standards are so new that most schools in the state have not had time to adopt new curriculums, and teachers have not had time to create new lesson plans. The result is that reading and math tests showed that less than one third of students in New York State passed. This was no aberration. Last year, Kentucky reported that the levels of its students deemed proficient also fell dramatically.

What's so disturbing about all this is that those responsible for approving the abrupt changes defend their decision. In New York State, Merryl Tisch, the chancellor of the state Board of Regents, said: "We can't wait. We have to just jump into the deep end." That makes absolutely no sense at all. The only way to draw valid inferences about test results is to allow sufficient time for teachers to adjust their instruction. Otherwise, false conclusions will be drawn. This directly affects parents, whose plans for the education of their children are suddenly thrown into total chaos.

If top public school officials expect to retain the support of the communities they serve, they have a responsibility to exercise fairness. The way they have acted so far is outrageous. I wonder how they would feel if their own children were involved. The only glimmer of hope is that principals at some selective middle and high schools have announced their decision not to take into consideration recent state tests when evaluating admissions. I hope their pushback, coupled with parental outrage, will force the Board of Regents in New York and its equivalent in other states to rethink their policies.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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