Standardized testing has been around for a long time and you will find it in private, parochial and home-schooling too. I’ve never had a problem with standardized testing because as a parent, it helped me know if my kids were learning the core content in the core subjects.  In private, parochial and home-schooling, they test the kids each year and it’s the parents who get to analyze the results.

This is how it used to also be in public schools. They’d use an achievement test and parents would get the results. It was sort of like an independent snapshot on what your kids know and didn’t know.

This has all worked well when PARENTS were the ones who would hold the schools accountable based on those results. The problem started when government bureaucrats decided schools should be accountable to them.

These bureaucrats also know that what gets tested, gets taught. It’s a way to control the curriculum. That’s not a problem for parents when things like basic math and grammar are tested. Why? Because parents want the basic core content taught.

Testing wasn’t used as a punishment but a way for parents to get involved with guiding the school or their children. For instance, if the 3rd grade students were not doing well on the math portion of the test, parents could get together and suggest a change in curriculum/text books. However if a parent noted that their child wasn’t doing well compared to the rest of the class, maybe the problem was with that child not doing their home-work. The parent had evidence they needed to address their child versus the teacher or text-book.

Testing in public ed is used for “accountability” but that accountability is no longer to parents. The federal and state government also funds public education. Federal and state laws and even court decisions require accountability to the state and federal government bureaucracies. No longer are local communities going to hold their schools accountable, state and federal bureaucrats will.

In NH most of the funding for your schools is provided by the local taxpayers. However we all know that local school administrators have turned a deaf ear to parents. Testing in the school is now controlled by the Feds and State who now hold those schools accountable to them. If students do not perform well on those tests, there is a blueprint of reforms to make sure the schools are doing exactly what they want them to do. Right now that means alignment to the Common Core standards and Competency Based Education that shifts focus away from academic content to dumbed down workforce skills.

Parents are still paying for their schools through those state and federal dollars, but they are no longer the voice or control behind those dollars.

To add insult to injury, schools are forced to use psychometric assessments versus achievement tests. These are controversial assessments because there is a focus on assessing a student’s values, attitudes and beliefs. This is why the Nashua teachers reported (line 50) that the Smarter Balanced Assessment was more like a psychological evaluation than an actual test of knowledge.

Parents want to know their kids have learned the basics. Government bureaucrats want to control the curriculum, gather information on students and use this power to control what they are learning. In other words, if your child does not have the correct attitude on global warming or abortion, political bureaucrats will make sure they do through the testing and accountability tools.

Standardized testing can and has been a good tool. It’s the testing “SCHEME” in public schools that is now the problem. When you remove the accountability from parents and local communities and use tests to shape values and attitudes in children, parents will revolt. That’s why the opt out movement continues to grow each year.

Government bureaucrats took a good tool and turned it into a “testing-scheme” that parents, students and teachers hate. That’s unfortunate because there can be real value in these kinds of tests when they are NOT USED to control schools, teachers, students and curriculum.

There is a great deal of testing in the schools because administrators feel the pressure to make sure their students are ready for those standardized assessments. In NH these same bureaucrats who ushered in the controversial and faulty assessments are now telling us that they understand the problems. They don’t. Their fix was to change up the testing to new PACE assessments. It doesn’t matter how often they change the name, the SCHEME remains the same.

They are going to continue to assess a student’s attitudes, collect data on them and hold schools accountable to the bureaucrats. However if they change the SCHEME up a little bit with “new” PACE assessments, they can throw parents off of their backs for a while.

THE STATE’S ROLE IN CREATING THE TESTING-SCHEME

The Claremont decision that came down from the NH courts require testing. NH put in it’s state constitution that NH students had a “right” to an adequate education. Claremont said that if they have a right, they then need to fund it which includes spelling out the state’s obligation:
……….. required the department of education to determine whether schools were providing a constitutionally adequate education by assessing their progress towards meeting “quality standards” and the State’s minimum standards for school approval. If a school did not meet these standards, or was not making “measurable progress” towards meeting these standards, the department of education was required to provide assistance to the school.……………….

……….. through additional accountability, assistance, and enforcement provisions, ensures the provision of a constitutionally adequate education.” Under this bill, whether a school is meeting education goals would “be measured through each school’s performance on the State assessment test and other locally administered standardized tests; achievement of its performance goals and local performance indicators as described in its local education improvement and assessment plan; and its compliance with the school approval standards.” The attorney general’s office concluded that the ABC plan “provides accountability for the education that is being delivered to the students of this State.”

When the state funds schools, you can expect even less local control.

NH legislators tried to fix some of the funding problems with the Claremont decision  but spelled out the state’s responsibility to define standards and accountability. CACR12 would have put control of standards and accountability in the NH Constitution as an amendment:
PROVIDING THAT: the legislature shall define standards for education, determine the level of state funding thereof, establish standards of accountability, and allocate state funds in a manner that mitigates disparities in educational opportunity and fiscal capacity, provided that a reasonable share of state funds shall be distributed on a per pupil basis.

Placing the burden of public education on the State via the New Hampshire Constitution essentially helped to kill local control. Local communities have lost their voice and whether it be the federal or state bureaucracies, accountability is the key component to controlling your schools.

CACR12 would have engrained accountability to the state in the NH constitution through this amendment but failed in the NH House of Representatives.

THE FED’S ROLE IN CREATING THIS TESTING-SCHEME

ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) was recently signed into law by President Obama. It’s over 1,000 pages of federal education law that replaced NO Child Left Behind. Testing was a big topic during the hearings and the federal legislators listened to proponents of testing lobby for more testing and accountability. Unfortunately the discussion didn’t center on placing that back into the hands of local communities and parents.

ESSA spells out the kinds of testing schools have to use. States have an obligation to demonstrate that the State educational agency consulted with local educational agencies to implement high quality academic assessments. However the ultimate authority in this case would be the U.S. Secretary of Education as the final arbitrator on whether or not they will distribute funding based on what the state provided in their plans. ESSA requires the state to develop plans that must be approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education. This leaves all decisions ultimately to the Federal Government.

In other words, if local schools in New Hampshire were to choose a local assessment that didn’t meet the approval of the Secretary of Education, our federal funding could be at risk.

Within the ESSA guidelines there is also a reference to the type of testing that will be allowed. In other words, schools that want to test for academic knowledge using achievement testing that is objective would not be approved.

ESSA requires assessments to be developed to the extent practicable using the principles of universal design for learning. (UDL) That is a significant restriction on the kinds of tests schools can use.

UDL measures “higher order thinking skills and while that may sound good, the practice may be one parents or even school administrators want to avoid. http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/05/19/udl-personalized-939/

Higher-order thinking skills have little to do with factual or academic knowledge. These assessments will measure, in a subjective way, skills such as critical, logical, reflective, metacognitive, and creative thinking. These are now embedded in computerized programs that map and analyze a child’s brain function.

This means they will be measuring a student’s non-cognitive dispositions, attributes and mindsets. The focus on academic knowledge becomes secondary to these so-called higher order-thinking skills. http://childrenthinkingskills.blogspot.com/p/high-order-of-thinking-skills.html

This is exactly what many parents do not want schools measuring on a “standardized test.” This is also often cited as a complaint by parents due to the subjective nature when measuring their child’s values or attitudes.

When you talk to people who say that they need to hold these schools accountable and then support these kinds of measures you need to ask yourself, why are we saying more testing and accountability to bureaucrats who set up this SCHEME in the first place?

These people do not trust parents and local communities to make important decisions. They don’t trust the teachers and they do not trust the administrators. But what do they have to show for the testing SCHEME they’ve forced upon public ed for the last few decades?

The assessments used in NH classrooms today do not even follow state law. State law requires valid assessments and these are not validated assessments:
RSA 193C: 3 III (b): “The assessment exercises or tasks shall be valid and appropriate representations of the standards the students are expected to achieve.”

The best thing to do is refuse the assessments and replace the curriculum. Parents can do that by letting their administrators and teachers know that they are refusing these assessments for their children. If parents do not approve of the material assigned to their children, HB542 allows them to replace those materials at their expense.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in Bedford, New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can reach her at: [email protected]