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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 08, 2016 10:01 pm

Standardized test discontent is spreading nationwide

If misery loves company, Hoosiers should find solace in the nation’s widespread problems with standardized testing.

The ongoing problems Indiana experiences with computer software, grading and test validity aren’t unique. For some states the trouble was caused by a backhoe.

Last week, a backhoe operator at the University of Kansas’ Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation severed a major fiber cable. The center is responsible for end-of-year assessments for schools in Kansas and Alaska, as well as tests for students with disabilities in 14 other states.

Alaska canceled its tests as a result of the disruption, and the director of the Kansas center admitted the service problem was causing huge problems for larger school districts, where computer lab access for testing rests on finely tuned schedules. 

Tennessee wasn’t affected by the fiber mishap, but complaints from parents and teachers there almost echo the debate in Indiana: Too much time on testing, problems with both online and written tests, students crying during testing. The state education commissioner said this week that time spent on testing will be reduced next year.

Policymakers in Indiana and elsewhere would be wise to heed the warning of one of the nation’s pre-eminent experts on assessment, James W. Popham, professor emeritus at the graduate school of education and information studies at UCLA.

“The time has come for us to abandon the naive belief that an educational test created for Purpose X can be cavalierly used for Purpose Z,” Popham wrote in an Education Week essay last month.

“Too many children in our schools are harmed by these methods because educators are basing their decisions on inaccurate information supplied by the wrong tests. We must follow the up-to-date advice of the measurement community and demand the use of purposeful educational testing.”