Readers may have come across news that Rhode Island students’ scores on the PARCC tests remain underwhelming. This paragraph from Dan McGowan puts it succinctly:
The majority of public school students across Rhode Island still aren’t meeting expectations in math or English, according to the latest round of standardized test scores released Thursday by the R.I. Department of Education.
Of course, the problem is that our education bureaucrats change the test, wholesale, every time they’ve been around long enough to begin pointing toward actual conclusions about actual students. One needn’t be but so cynical to suspect that the problem with the recently abandoned New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests wasn’t pedagogical, but that they began to allow Rhode Islanders to trace students’ progress (or lack thereof) through enough years of their schooling to begin holding the system accountable.
The best way to resolve that particular institutional friction, of course, is to change the test. That buys the system a few years of excused “adjustment” and then another four or five years during which the test are acknowledged to be measuring something, but without enough data to draw conclusions. Then… change the test again.
This post shouldn’t be read as an endorsement of standardized testing as an ideal mechanism for accountability. Much preferable would be empowering parents to judge which schools will better serve their children and to direct their education resources there by some mechanism that isn’t as intrusive as changing houses.
But there has to be some way for communities to judge how well the schools in their communities are performing, and without a market dynamic, the waters are too easy to muddy. Parents don’t want to feel as if they’ve made bad decisions for their children, and when the decision is limited to uprooting your entire life and moving, the incentive is to make the best of what you’ve got.
With that framing, the handling of standardized testing is simply an extension of the strategy. The game is to bamboozle each generation of parents to keep the corrupt union-driven system going.