Facing terrible test scores, states move to nix graduation tests
Category: News & PoliticsVia: gregtx • one month ago • 3 comments
Following an embarrassing batch of post-pandemic test scores, education bureaucrats are working hard — not to help students pass their graduation exams but to eliminate them as a requirement to graduate.
In New York, a petition calls on state education leaders to "decouple" the Regents exam from its graduation requirements on the grounds that too many poor and minority students fail the test.
The sponsoring organization, Advocates for Children, has landed on the wrong solution to a very real problem: Poor and minority students are suffering in the current education system. But the right answer is to help them learn rather than hand them a meaningless diploma.
New Mexico's high school class of 2024 will not be required to pass an exam to graduate, though they still must sit for the test. Officials at the state's Public Education Department justified their decision based on the pandemic, and the state's American Federation of Teachers president praised the move.
Oregon, an early adopter of the pandemic excuse, enacted a law in the summer of 2021 temporarily suspending its requirement for graduates to pass state math, reading, and writing tests. This may soon become a permanent policy: In September, the Oregon Department of Education issued a review of state proficiency requirements, in which it recommended eliminating a state-level essential skills test as a requirement to graduate.
New Jersey's graduation test requirement is also on the chopping block. The test will be administered for the class of 2023, but a passing score is not required. In early December, progressives testified against existing requirements at several grade levels, with a teacher's union official calling out "structural and systemic racism" in the current testing scheme as the pretext.
This institutional laziness robs students of a real education. It's easier to obliterate standards than to bring students up to them. But in the absence of standards, diplomas are nothing but paper participation trophies.
This is an orchestrated cover-up between education bureaucrats and teachers unions to dodge accountability for their terrible job performance. The National Education Association, the largest teachers union, calls standardized tests "instruments of racism." The real instruments of racism are unions that trap a disproportionate number of minority students in failing schools.
This summer, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution against the standards in standardized testing. Their resolution is peppered with the language of "equity," but the truly "equitable" solution is to bring all students up to a high standard rather than eliminate the standards altogether.
It's no surprise the unions are not fans of standardized tests, which have become an annual reminder that the education status quo is a disaster. Even pre-COVID, the test scores were mediocre. Now, they're the siren signaling an educational emergency. If the educational powers that be believed they could right the ship, they would see no problem with keeping graduation exams on the calendar. It says everything about the state of education that the people in charge have no confidence in their product.
In decades past, schools could only hide their poor performance so much. When students with college aspirations took the SAT or ACT, their scores would show if their school had served them well. But now, colleges are nixing these tests for the same reasons the states give — equity and the pandemic. States will never get caught when their students score poorly on college admissions exams because fewer students will be taking those tests at all.
Standardized tests are not perfect, and the negative ramifications of "teaching to the test" are well documented. But standardized tests are the one objective measure we have of how schools, districts, and states are performing relative to one another. Every teacher's grading process is different, and many of them involve subjective factors like written papers or class participation. The standardized tests cut across those differences to give us a useful snapshot of student performance.
In an ideal world, teachers would give their students a holistic view of the subject matter instead of "teaching to the test." But without the tests, too many of them will teach to nothing. We ask embarrassingly little of our education system. If standardized testing evaporates, we may soon be asking nothing at all.