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Anthony Cody: High-Stakes Testing Requires High Levels of Surveillance

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Anthony Cody posted yesterday that the high-stakes of the new testing system inevitably leads to high surveillance. Add to the high stakes the fact that the two tests are national, and you have a scenario in which the testing corporations are expecting teachers and administrators to help them spy on students’ social media. Apparently Pearson (and not Pearson alone) has a means of monitoring millions of students’ postings on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere, using key words as alerts.


Cody writes:


By creating a state-sponsored “accountability” system that attaches heavy consequences to student performance on tests, the state and its corporate test-making partners have created a compelling need for extensive surveillance of everyone that accountability system touches. Teacher and administrator evaluations and thus jobs depend on these scores. Schools may be closed. Funding to schools is increased or reduced. And the tests are supposed to determine which students are ready for college.


All these consequences create reasons for people to game the system – and this has been the hallmark of NCLB from its inception. The “Texas Miracle” that inspired NCLB was based on the creative practice of holding back the 9th graders whose scores would make the schools look bad. Result? A miraculous rise in scores, a Texas governor who bragged he was an “education governor” on his way to the White House, and brought us a whole system of accountability based on test scores. And NCLB has made test-based accountability a part of the basic contract between the Federal government and the schools that receive federal funding.


Any system that imparts heavy consequences for success or failure must have intense security. How do you impose test security on a system that must test as many as fifty million school children every year, when many millions of these students have smart phones and Facebook accounts? You MUST have a surveillance apparatus. You must also have local District personnel act as your deputies in monitoring these activities, and in meting out consequences for those who violate your rules. It is all an inescapable outgrowth of creating a system that rewards and punishes people based on student test scores.


So, we should not be surprised that the testing corporations are protecting their “intellectual property” by not allowing students to write about the test questions or even discuss them (how do they monitor discussions?).


Frankly, we should be even more concerned that the vaunted “test security” extends even to teachers. When the tests are over, they are not allowed to see any information about how their students performed on the test questions. They get a score, but nothing of diagnostic value. It is like going to a doctor feeling ill, taking tests, then learning that you won’t get the test results for four months or more, that the doctor won’t tell you what is wrong or give you any treatment, but he will give you a score comparing you to patients with similar symptoms across the state and nation. That’s crazy. But that is what is happening. Billions of dollars for tests with no diagnostic value.



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