Test Critics Fail the Test: Critics of Testing Don’t Understand the Basics of Testing

by Glynn D. Ligon, now posted in the Nonpartisan Education Review.


The Preface:

Critics of testing students don’t understand the basics of testing. We let critics get away with bogus arguments that undermine the benefits of testing our students. Parents are misled into opposing a unique source of information about their schools—and their children. Worse, some opt their own kids out of a valuable validator of their academic progress.

Critics of state tests are doing parents and educators a disservice. I trust the critics are merely misinformed; however, their attacks are often simply not based on fact. The news media validates the critics without benefit of having a basic background in testing. The state and district testing staffs have taken such politically cautious stances that they too seldom speak as advocates for the tests they are hired to administer and interpret. I venture to say the state and district test directors agree with me that the critics are off base most of time. I don’t know why we feel obligated to state our few agreements with critics’ tangential points before we begin destroying their numerous and overwhelming false premises.

I’m taken aback by four observations.

• Too few professionals are taking up for the tests.
• The critics are getting away with their misrepresentations and recasting of the issues.
• School accountability systems are being undermined.
• The states are trying to do too much with their state proficiency tests.

What’s needed in this debate is an unbiased, informed perspective. I no longer have a stake in this. I’m a former teacher, a former test director, and a former parent of public school students. I still have a Ph.D. in measurement and have read all the criticisms of testing. I constantly talk with parents who believe the criticisms of testing. I read the news articles about state testing and accountability.

So, here I go. I’m taking a “let’s get this debate centered on the issues and facts” position.

The attack on state tests is akin to Clark Kent being bullied on the playground as a kid and not being allowed to use his powers to defend himself. Somehow, it has become politically impolite to correct or challenge the test critics without first having to agree with one of their marginal points. The test pros seem to feel obligated to begin their response by agreeing with the test critics’ red herrings that make them appear to be legitimate defenders of our schools, students, and tax payer dollars. Sorry, critics. I’m not doing that. Not being a public employee, nor representing a testing company, I’ll say what should be said.

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2 Responses to Test Critics Fail the Test: Critics of Testing Don’t Understand the Basics of Testing

  1. AMIDU EDSON says:

    Thank you for sharing

  2. Donna Garner says:

    I finished going through Dr. Ligon’s report and found it very interesting.

    The one point that Dr. Ligon never seems to cover, however, is the most important point of all: the curriculum standards themselves. If the curriculum standards are Type #1 (fact-based, academic), then the assessments built upon them will be much more useful, accurate, and prescriptive than if the curriculum standards are Type #2 (subjective, emphasis on emotions/feelings/opinions). This holds true for both accountability assessments and formative assessments.

    Unless these education experts have spent years in real classrooms working with real students, they do not seem to understand that the type of curriculum standards utilized determines the academic outcomes of the students. This holds true for all students and for all classrooms no matter from what demographic and/or income levels the students come.

    I taught for 33+ years in 14 different schools in Texas and also was a Presidential appointee to the National Commission on Migrant Education. In the latter, I traveled throughout America, going from one migrant program to the next, choosing to talk to the people closest to the babies/children/students. I also met many educators throughout America and talked to them about their curriculum, primarily in the area of reading and English proficiency instruction.

    Besides the above, I have been highly involved in the writing of six different sets of English / Language Arts / Reading curriculum standards documents from 1995 through 2018.

    If the assessments are built upon the curriculum standards, then the day-to-day classroom instruction will be based upon whatever is on the assessments. Therefore, if the curriculum standards are Type #1, then the day-to-day classroom instruction will be Type #1.

    Several years ago I helped to design the following chart which explains in detail what the two philosophies of education entail. I really liked Dr. Ligon’s discussion of “politimetrics” which does definitely play a heavy part in Type #2. It is for this very reason that schools should follow Type #1 rather than Type #2:

    11.4.13 — Type #1 vs. Type #2 Chart — http://www.educationviews.org/comparison-types-education-type-1-traditional-vs-type-2-cscope-common-core/

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