As in politics, education-speak generates incessant reading of the tea leaves. So Wednesday’s statement from state education chiefs calling for more “rationality, coherence and purpose” in student testing sounded, possibly, like an admission that those things are lacking.
In New York, for example, State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said testing “sometimes even crowds out time for student learning.”
That’s about as blunt as state school officials get. Even U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan took up their call: “In some places, tests — and preparation for them — are dominating the calendar and culture of schools,” he said.
Whoa. Are the backers of Common Core State Standards (and the tests that come with them) waving a white flag? Extending an olive branch to teachers and parents who have pushed back with increasing vigor against standardized testing?
The national group was merely saying that Common Core-aligned tests — Washington plans to use ones called Smarter Balanced — are better than the old fill-in-the-bubble exams, which should now, perhaps, be eliminated.
“We are not backing down from assessments — that’s very clear,” said Melissa McGrath, a spokeswoman for the Council of Chief State School Officers. “Assessments are necessary.”
A relief, no doubt, to policy-watchers at Education Trust, who focus on teacher accountability in closing the achievement gap and rushed to release a statement saying “Equity in education can only be assured through benchmarks that measure achievement for all students.”
In sum, the new boss (Smarter Balanced and its ilk) may be pretty much like the old — certainly in terms of the ire it generates.
“Homilies” and “hollow pledges,” said Bob Schaeffer, at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing who has proposed a moratorium on such high-stakes assessments. “Today’s statement is little more than a defense of the testing overkill status quo.”