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Thompson: The Anti-Testing Backlash Reaches a Crescendo


Kathleen Porter-McGee’s Fordham Flypaper post (The Four Biggest Myths of the Anti-Testing Movement) is right on one thing: the backlash against bubble-in accountability has reached a crescendo. 

But, Porter-McGee seems to assume that these primitive metrics are more valuable for poor children than teachers’ "instincts" because educators are contaminated by “low expectations.”

Does that mean that imposing rote instruction on poor children represents “high expectations?”

Porter-McGee recalls that “drill-and-kill” was popular in the era of mimeograph machines, but she provides no evidence for her claim that basic skills instruction is due to something she calls "excessive within-class achievement variability," as opposed to overzealous accountability.

Yes, worksheet-driven instruction is “a function of low teacher capacity,” but it is also due to failed schools and systems.  Often, it is the way that teachers in chaotic inner city schools create some order in systems that refuse to address discipline.  Rather than imposing the lowest-common-denominator of standardized testing on teachers and our students, the better response would have be to invest in capacity-building so that instruction could be improved.

 Porter-McGee is half-right on one point. Testing could put a spotlight on achievement gaps and struggling students and schools.  If assessments were diagnostic, they could drive critical conversations about policies and instruction.  As long as there are stakes attached to those metrics, however, they will remain inaccurate and they will continue to be a barrier to getting struggling students on the path to success.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.


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