Letter: Testing: astronomy or astrology | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Testing: astronomy or astrology

Testing: astronomy or astrology

It is testing season again in American schools. As a teacher, I walk down the hall to fetch a box of tests, I read instructions verbatim, and oversee a dozen sullen children. All of whom know these tests don’t mean anything in terms of their education. What is the cost of this box? What have we gained, and lost? I explain to another teacher that we have traded a class in astronomy for a box of astrology.

Here in Colorado I have heard estimates of tens of millions of dollars per year for the state (TCAP) mandated test alone. In my 14 years of teaching, they have more than doubled these tests. In addition, there are national tests (SAT, ACT), pretests for the national tests (PSAT), and tests for teacher accountability (NWEA, PARCC). A math teacher exclaimed, at a meeting last week, that next year’s testing schemes will account for 20 percent to 25 percent of a student’s instructional time. Additionally, pervasive elements, such as educational consultants and publishing personnel, dominate our professional training.

Let’s think about the classes and services lost to pay for this box. We have lost preschool, full-time kindergarten, remedial and accelerated classes, ELL classes, gym classes, art and music classes, low graduation requirements; the list goes on and on. A great deal of the money for these tests, schemes, and consultants comes from pirating programs and services from children. The cornerstone of educational reform is a guarantee of money for the testing companies and consultants.

In my science room is a large caliper to measure the diameters of trees. The same tool was used in the 1800s to study the size and shape of the cranium for the pseudoscience of phrenology. The measures taken by the instrument are valid, but the interpretations are bunk. The testing schemes are designed to assure more business for the testing companies and the consultants.

Here’s the scam run by the testing apparatus. Drum up as much hype, panic and bad news as they can about education, then pitch the fix as being the tests. Continually change the standards, and the tests. I have seen the standards change four to five times, and the tests have changed three times. Yet the general biology class I teach is essentially the same as I learned 30 years ago. The tests are scored on a scale of standard deviations around a mean; so there is always a segment for students that score low. The analysis of the data comes from the testing companies. In other words, the testing apparatus generates data to justify, perpetuate, and maximize their profits. All this riding on the gravy train wave of public funds.

Investigate the public tax dollars running the testing apparatus. Use an independent commission to see what the per capita cost is, for this state and the nation. The testing apparatus represents one of the greatest scams of public tax dollars in modern history. The children of this nation are suffering educational triage, as classes and programs are cannibalized, while the testing companies profit. Forget the new world order and hyperbole — follow the money.

Mark Duff

Teacher, Basalt High School

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