Wednesday, October 12, 2022

TRASH HIGH STAKES TESTS: instead use "leading education indicators"

Way too much is made of high stakes test scores. They measure relative trivialities and tell us nothing whatsoever about the impact schooling is having on the way people actually make decisions and live their lives. 

 Many admit the weaknesses of these tests. But most still argue for their administration. “We need some measure of school effectiveness,” they say. Sure we do. But there already are widely available ways of measuring educational success that do not require wasting instructional time, teaching to the test, or inadvertently fostering teacher and administrative dishonesty. All we need do is identify and assemble measures that already exist. 

Economists call them "lagging indicators" and have long used them to compile their index of "Leading Economic Indicators. Here they combine already existing economic measures to construct an overall picture of the health of the economy. And that's precisely how we can and should evaluate schooling. Assemble an index of "Leading Educational Indicators." Here are some candidates to consider for that index:  

  • THE NIELSON RATINGS What folks watch on TV could be one indicator of the success or failure of their schooling? Count the number of adults regularly viewing "The Celebrity Dating Game,"for example, and we might be mostly counting people that schooling somehow failed. So, the fact that ABC cancelled that wretched show after just one season would be good news on the school front. Similarly HBO's "House of the Dragon" has soared to 2022's number one spot for both cable and streaming. Rotten Tomatoes says, "The story, the casting, the acting and the set, all superb." So the popularity of that show could be a plus for schooling. Do you think the Nielsens might be helpful in evaluating schooling's success or failure? 
  • MUSIC SALES Perhaps we should check the sales figures for various musical artists and genres. Like the enduring popularity of paintings of Elvis on black velvet, they might well reveal \ information about schooling's success or failure. We could, for example, compare gangsta rap sales with those for classical music. Don't you think schooling has surely failed those who prefer Snoop Dog to Mozart or Ice Cube to Chopin? Presently lots of consumers are buying unmelodious, disharmonic trash accompanied by primitive, vulgar verse. Do those who prefer that, constitute a black mark for their schooling? 
  • CULT MEMBERSHIP Should we use the popularity of cult membership as a measure in our index? Did every Jonestown resident who drank cyanide laced Cool Aid represent a schooling failure? How about the men in David Koresh's cult who permitted that saint to sexually service their wives and daughters because, as Koresh patiently explained, he was the only man pure enough for the job. Were they well schooled? Then there's the  Heaven's Gate crowd who, in conformity with "Bo" and "Peep's" teachings, "left their containers" to rendezvous with that space ship concealed behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Don't all such cults seem to have been schooled deficiently? And let's not forget the most enthusiastic members of the Trump cult. 
  •  SUPERMARKET TABLOID SALES Do the sales figures of these grotesque gazettes provide a more valid measure of educational progress than anything ETS could dream up? I'm talking about those tabloids that headline things like "WOMEN COMMITS SUICIDE IN DISHWASHER!", or "HALF BOY, HALF DOLPHIN WASHES UP ON BEACH!" What do you think? Should we regard tabloid sales as an inverse measure of educational progress? 
  •  THE POPULARITY OF CON-ARTIST TELEVANGELIST'S Their income is available from the IRS Tax Exempt Branch. And that might be a measure of schooling's effectiveness? Perhaps the more money these charlatans make, the less well our schools have done? Consider, for example, the Reverend Benny Hinn's television ministry. Hinn, the subject of a devastating CNN expose, is the chap who claims to lapse into "trances" while conducting worship services. Then, according to the Reverend, the Holy Spirit uses his vocal apparatus to speak to the congregation. Should the incomes of this type of shameless con artist be added to our index? 
  • THE CREDIBILITY OF CREATION "SCIENCE"  An astonishing number of Americans believe that our 4.6 billion year old earth was born a mere 6,000 years ago. They even believe that Noah assembled mating pairs of every animal on the planet, evidently including dinosaurs, loaded them on his ark, and fed and housed them for over a year. Does the enduring popularity of this mythology constitutes proof that schools aren't getting the job done — at least when it comes to logical reasoning and science? What do you think?
Who needs high stakes testing when we have such well-established measures to choose from? Presently this index is just an idea. You probably have your own thoughts about what measures should and could be included. But the point is that this sort of lagging indicators index would be much more powerful than anything Educational Testing Service or Psychological Corporation could possibly contrive. An Index of this sort surely would better reflect the real life results tax payers are getting for their average total expenditure of $163,000 per child.

 I'll bet you are thinking that schools are not exclusively, even mainly, responsible for the state of affairs such measures reveal. You might even be thinking that dumb is the essential problem. Okay. But so what? Educators aren’t chiefly responsible for standardized test results either. For one thing, no allowance is made for the fact that a little less than half of the kids taking those tests are below average in intelligence. As a matter of fact, 25% of them are far below average. And we're not allowing for the large number of kids who are average or above in native intelligence, but far too lazy or emotionally damaged, to evaluate evidence and think for themselves. Plus we're not even figuring in their attendance record. Educators currently are even being blamed for not producing good test results from kids who are rarely there.

Then again, maybe it really doesn't matter that high stakes tests aren't fair and do a horrible job of measuring anything of enduring value. Perhaps what matters most is simply blaming somebody. And since educators neither fight back effectively or don't fight back at all, they're an inviting target. 

What do you think? Is creating an Index of Leading Educational Indicators a good idea?

 To further examine issues of this kind, see and

No comments: