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Jason Stanford, an investigative journalist in Texas, writes that he took the fourth grade ELA test, composed of sample questions from the Smarter Balanced Assessment. He decided to do this after learning that a sixth grader challenged legislators to take the test.
A 6th grader in East Texas recently challenged state lawmakers to do what she and every other public-school kid have to do during testing season: “Sit in a room for up to four hours, without talking, writing, drawing, reading, or using your cell phone.” Because millions of children are taking Common Core standardized tests this time of year, I did her one better. I took a 4th-grade English Language Arts practice test. The good news is I passed.
The bad news is that the test is basically worthless, highlighting the folly of using standardized tests to measure a child’s ability to read and write. And to the Texas 6th grader’s point, in no way whatsoever was I able to quietly sit still for that long. Of course, it didn’t take me four hours to complete the sample test. I don’t want to brag, but I’m very advanced for a 4th grader.
There were questions that he found confusing. There were questions that made him want to strangle whoever wrote them. There was no real literature. There were questions with no right answers or possibly two right answers. The big problem, he concludes, is the assumption that standardized tests can assess what children understand or know or can do.
The writing portion of the test was ludicrous. Students were given a business card-shaped rectangle in which to record their analysis. You could replace this entire test with a book report and come out ahead. Actually, you could probably buy every child in America first editions and come out ahead. The price tag on SBAC tests in California alone is $1 billion.
We’re so focused on measuring children that we’ve stopped developing them. These tests don’t measure what we want our children to learn and are a waste of money. That Texas 6th grader has a point. I can’t sit quietly. This test is failing our children.