A re-post of Thomas Weber’s Editorial 6-9-14 in the Tennessean “Bring Transparency to School Testing Process” adapted from his blog post which poses more questions on “Accountability Huffman Style”.
This has been the year of heavy scrutiny of standardized tests. Parents are paying more attention than ever to what kind of testing their children are being subjected to and have started to raise questions. It’s fair to say that a level of distrust has begun to ferment. If there ever was a time for a process to run smoothly and error-free, now is the time.
Unfortunately, the Tennessee Department of Education has failed to rise to the challenge (“TN’s Common Core test delay disappoints, concerns Kevin Huffman,” April 17). They have preached the importance of standardized testing to alleviate a crisis in education. These tests are supposedly essential in holding people accountable, yet they can’t even complete their end of the bargain in a timely and transparent fashion. Instead, they offer excuses that we would never accept from our children, and cast the results in doubt.
How valid can we now really consider these scores to be? You may call it “post-equating,” but to me it sounds like manipulation. It’s a well-known fact that “cut scores” change annually, but with every aspect of testing so clouded in secrecy it was easy for administrators to defend their policies. However, this latest debacle blows a hole in the argument that scores aren’t massaged — sorry, I mean “post-equated.”
Added to the “post-equating” defense is some mumbo-jumbo about making sure questions “align with Common Core.” To me, that sounds like arbitrarily looking at questions and throwing a few out. Anybody who’s ever looked at these tests in-depth is aware of how much just changing one or two variables can change the whole narrative. Back home, we call it cooking the books.
Here is another truism that I’ve lived with my whole life in the customer service realm: Perception is nine-tenths of reality. That’s why these results have now been corrupted beyond redemption. There will always be a question of their authenticity. This is inexcusable, and someone needs to be held accountable.
The ramifications of test scores have grown exponentially. State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman was willing to stake teachers’ careers on test results. Parents hire tutors and make decisions on extracurricular activities based on the test. Schools throw “test pep rallies” to alleviate student “test anxieties.” The Tennessee Department of Education’s actions have taken all that focus and made it for naught.
Commissioner Huffman’s response further reinforces the worthlessness of the results by granting waivers. All school districts that request a waiver for these scores being used in final grades will receive a waiver to include scores in final grades. When questioned about the legality of this action, the Tennessee Department of Education points to a statute that clearly states the commissioner cannot grant waivers in regard to “federal and state student assessment and accountability,” which is somehow interpreted as granting powers.
Hopefully, by now the scope of this fiasco is clear. It’s not some harmless clerical error. Those of you who have ever proctored one of these tests know how fiercely the propriety of these tests is guarded. Walls are covered up, teachers swear blood oaths, and parents are never allowed to see the questions. That has to change.
Mr. Huffman needs to resign and we need to bring transparency to the testing process. A test is only as good as its perceived integrity.
T.C. Weber is a Nashville parent, TREE board member and Recording Secretary.