Saturday, December 12, 2009

Standardized Testing as Business

Linked to previous.

Another interesting (and somewhat concerning) aspect of Standardized Testing is the fact that, at the heart of it, it's a business. And that's not to make a claim about the design of the tests being 'corrupt,' 'greedy,' or 'evil' or something-- it just means they have to follow business rules.

In 2001, education assessment consultant Nina Metzner talked about some of the problems with the standardized testing after millions of students' exams had scoring issues:

"There was a lack of personnel, a lack of time, too many projects, too few people."

The problem with this? This was before No Child Left Behind, legislation that expanded the pressure on the standardized testing industry by 50% by mandating schools test students more often in order to evaluate a school's success or failure.

Combine this with 6-week testing grade deadlines, and according essay-grading time contraints (one essay per 2 minutes). On top of that is the high demand for employees (which may be hired despite failing qualifying tests) to perform the mind-numbing and difficult task of putting consistent and accurate scores on hundreds of thousands of tests with guidelines that suck. The nature of the work as evaluating individual students' work (with fairness) is at odds with the job's business side (time limits and attempts at standardization). If standardized scorers don't conform to groupthink, they will not get anything scored or agreed upon that follows the highly-centralized business's standards, even though they are evaluating very diverse student input.

While the massive holes in the scoring process are not necessarily the result of 'bad intention' so much as an understandable disaster resulting from a combination of education and business, claiming standardized tests are actually standardized and scientific could not be more fraudulent. And sometimes these tests determine whether or not students get their diploma or not, or if a school passes or fails.

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