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The trouble with choice

The Project School controversy in Indianapolis prompted this Sunday column on school choice. I offended at least one Project School parent who suggested I put too much weight on test results.

Anyone who's been following my blog or articles in The Journal Gazette should know that I'm no fan of standardized tests. I point to test results only because they are the standard being used to grade, reward and punish Indiana schools. It's disingenuous to embrace a charter school – a school choice created by attacking public schools on the basis of test performance – and then argue that the same tests shouldn't apply to the choice you've selected.

School choice proponents have cleverly marketed their voucher campaign to suggest that parents have all of the control in the choice equation. That's not even close to reality, as the parents at the Project School are learning. By controlling the measures by which schools are evaluated – standards and standardized testing –Indiana's education policymakers control where the education resources will go.

Assessment certainly has its place in education, but researchers know far better ways to assess student performance than by a standardized test. With that in mind, why aren't more people asking about the real motivation behind the current obsession with testing?

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at