JEFF MEADORS: Who really gains from standardized testing?

The Georgia Department of Education recently released 2014 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test results. While only state level data exists in the public domain for now, 2014 district level and school level data will be available by June 26th and July 10th respectively. I will report then on forthcoming data including secondary EOCTs.

While 2014 CRCT data flanked media headlines touting gains from 2013, especially in grade 8, uncomfortable facts belie the race to braggadocio; most grade 3 – 8 CRCT data show no increase in percentages of students meeting/exceeding content area criteria.

Even worse, system leaders, many reminiscent of drones for the state, foreshadow impending doom and dramatic testing changes going forward. One gets the idea that no local level critical thinking has even gone into the construction of Georgia Milestones assessments; rather sources indicate to me it’s tantamount to the newest debacle in Georgia’s schools and nearly impossible for system leaders to drudge through. Baseline data evaporates during the constant reconstruction and remanufacturing of student assessments.

So who is gaining from all of this? I shared that months ago in a multi-part series on Common Core in this paper.

Close analysis of state CRCT scores shows grade 4 percentages of students meeting/exceeding standards dropped in English/language arts, math, and science and flat-lined in social studies. Reading percentages increased by 1 percent, hardly cause to foment jubilance that excellence has descended on Georgia’s elementary and middle schools.

Is it really time for more testing mania? When will we return the classroom back to teachers?

In the aftermath of the integrated math debacle which left cohorts of high school graduates robbed of trigonometric foundations sufficient to demonstrate acumen in math we have learned absolutely nothing. We simply refuse to give teachers room to breathe, move and teach.

Litigation across the U.S. finds flawed test administrations associated with Common Core’s secret agent Pearson Inc., a company that will earn taxpayer dollars from every test, retest and alternate test administered to every single public school student in every state. Ch-ching! Money falls from the sky for Pearson Inc. laughing all the way to the bank.

Grade 5 meets/exceeds results dipped from 2013 to 2014 in math as grade 6 math percentages rose 1 percent from 83 percent to 84 percent, only to fall one year later.

Grade 7 math meets/exceeds dropped 2 percent followed by a 1 percent decline in grade 8. Science scores fell from 2013 to 2014 in grade 7 only to pare the losses by 4 percent in grade 8, yet content mastery remained lower at 78 percent than all other content areas.

Now comes a problem. The grade level reading scores so often held dear by business and industry forecasting future literacy projections in municipalities: 3rd grade Georgia students exceeding in reading dropped 5 percent from 2013 to 2014 just in time for the Georgia DOE to ready the public for still lower scores to come due to “increased expectations for learning.”

If new tests foreshadow impending declines wouldn’t we want to first stop and give teachers more, not less, uninterrupted time to hone classroom instruction aimed at mitigating 5 percent drops in mastery, and additional drops in math, and science?

The problem with student performance lies less with teacher performance and more with carte-blanche acceptance of federally drilled down incentives and initiatives. Simply put, it’s about the money.

Just ask Pearson Inc.

Jeff Meadors contributes occasional analysis and opinion on education and schools.