Standardized tests are misused

Critics want to eliminate standardized tests because they say the tests don’t provide a fair picture of learning.  New York State serves as a case in point, since passing its Regents exams is necessary for a state high school diploma (“Will Regents exploit coronavirus crisis to end meaningful testing in New York?” New York Post, Apr. 12).

Local control of education makes it hard to get valid feedback about what public schools are actually doing, and even harder to justify spending millions of dollars on public schools. When I was in high school on Long Island, N.Y. in the early 1950s, Regents exams were required in most academic subjects. (I still have my Regents diploma.)  Past exams were readily available as a study guide.  I saw nothing on the exams that did not measure what my teachers had taught.

But because the Regents exams today do not produce the desired racial outcomes, critics want to abolish them completely.  Rather than do so, I suggest using the results primarily for diagnostic purposes instead of for punitive purposes.  Finland, which is known for the quality of its schools, has done this for many years.  There is no naming and shaming.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Standardized tests are misused”

  1. There’s some overlap (or possibly confusion) re the traditional use of the NY Regents exams and “standardized testing” under the No Schools Left Behind high-stakes testing reform movement.

    I’m all for the traditional use of the NY Regents exams and strongly against the high-stakes testing reform movement.

    Use the NY Regents exam to decide whether the student learned enough to get credit for a course, to decide whether the student is entitled to a high school diploma, and to decide how well a school system is doing overall. Do not use the NY Regents exam to reward or punish individual teachers — at most, use a teacher’s students’ unusually low scores as a signal that school management should monitor the teacher more closely than average; even that is questionable.

    To the extent that govt officials want to eliminate the Regents exams based on a concern that minority students are not doing well on the exams, that might be smart politics in NYC but it’s horrible govt policy.

    Agree that, based on my personal experience with the Regents during the early 1960s, the exams accurately/fairly tracked and tested the material that was caught in the courses + the process of reviewing for a Regents exam during the last week or two of the school year was a very effective device for reinforcing the students’ knowledge re all the stuff the students had stored in their short-term memory throughout the school year.


  2. Labor Lawyer: The Regents exams in New York State provided teachers with invaluable feedback about their instruction. I took them when I was a student in the 1950s and never found them to be unfair. Yet some critics want to eliminate the Regents exams because they do not produce the desired racial outcomes. That’s a big mistake.


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