Failing The Test

J.R. Labbe’s recent post about Chris Bell’s silly campaign ads reminded me to write about the other thing about them that bothers me.  He seems to be one of those people who bellyache about “standardized tests” in public schools.  He says something to the effect of how Texas should be preparing children for college, rather than teaching them to take a standardized test. 

Oh?  You mean the same colleges that require standardized tests for admission?

I’m not a fan of public education, but as long as a) it’s compulsory, and b) I have to pay for it, then I’m going to demand accountability.  This means that there has to be a way to measure whether students are learning the required subjects.  The only objective way to do this is through some kind of standardized test, administered by an outside agency. 

Opposition to testing, especially from people in the education field, always gets my antennae twitching.  I can’t help but wonder what they have to hide, or why they’re so afraid of being held accountable for the results of their work.  Out here in the real world, we’re always held accountable for the results of our work, so I have absolutely zero sympathy for teachers and educrats in this regard.

I also hear complaints about “teaching to the test.”  This also gets my attention, albeit in a negative fashion.  Here’s why:  If the teachers are teaching the material, and the students are learning it, then the test should be a simple matter.  If students have to be extensively coached on the specific test questions or topics, then that actually says to me that the test is doing part of its job.  Namely, it’s ferreting out bad teaching practices (and/or bad students).  Any coaching situation is one where we’ve identified a failure in the learning process.  If the education establishment was really interested in learning (instead of extorting more and more money out of us), it would use the test to do continuous process improvement.  But perhaps that’s too much like the private sector for them.  We wouldn’t want to pollute the art of teaching with hard-nosed real-world processes.

Standardized testing is NOT going away.  Not as long as people like me are dragged into the situation by having to pay for public education.  As an underwriter of this enterprise, I’m going to demand accountability.  So, teachers and educrats, it’s time for you to make your peace with testing and get back to the business of teaching.  I’m tired of listening to the bellyaching.


  1. Mike says:

    That is a very well- reasoned argument that should find it’s way into the editorial pages of TX (fishwrappers-cat box liners) newspapers. Oh, yeah, you would likely hear from many “education professionals” (what an oxymoron) and their minions.

  2. queuno says:

    To borrow a phrase …

    Public education is the worst execution of educational administration, except for all the rest.

    Standardized tests are really *easy* if you’ve learned the material.  I don’t think there’s any problem with teachers “coaching” students on basic test-taking strategies—after all, that’s why companies like Princeton Review are in business—but too many teachers take it a bit too far.

    The only “problem” with making teachers solely accountable, however, is that success on standardized tests is not entirely the responsibility of the teacher or the school system.  Parents have the ability to really screw this up.  I have no problem tying raises and bonuses to test scores.  I also have no problem tying future involvement of the high school in high school football to test scores.  Punish the parents as well as the teachers for low test scores.

  3. Queuno,

    The parental involvement issue was in the back of my mind while I was writing that, but I was more concerned with the annoying bellyaching over testing.

    I kind of like the idea of no-pass, no-play for entire schools.  But can you imagine the outpouring of rage should an entire school get banned from football?  big surprise  They don’t call football the national religion of Texas for nothing.