The Corruption of Statewide Testing

The political cartoon shows satirical commentary on the effect of increased legislation on class activity.

The political cartoon shows satirical commentary on the effect of increased legislation on class activity.

A recent article by the Miami Herald found that out of the 200 days that students are required to go to school, a whopping eight days have no assessments. This figure, while inclusive of district, state and national testing, does not even account for tests and exams given in class as part of a class grade. Though it is impossible for any student to take this huge number of tests, since the tests are distributed from kindergarten level to high school seniors, this statistic is certainly a reality check indicating where education is headed.

Many unhappy students and parents are starting to understand the purpose of most of these tests. While the Florida Board of Educators may say otherwise, the tests are not for the benefit of the students. This ridiculous form of data collection, used to measure practically everything from how “well” schools are doing to how much money teachers should be earning, only serves as an obstacle for real learning. When teachers know that their salary depends on their students performance on a test, naturally the teacher will spend a good portion of class time teaching specific test strategies rather than general, useful knowledge. Teachers, those who know how to best teach children, lose the ability to teach what they think is ideal. This takes power out of the instructors’ hands and puts it in the hands of overpaid test-creating companies, like Pearson. This for-profit company estimated that they develop $59 million worth of testing materials for Florida per year, not including the numerous additional testing expenses, such as computers, salaries of test supervisors and classroom materials for test preparation. So if all of this testing is not helping students or teachers, then the obvious question is, “who, exactly, does testing benefit?”

The constant assessments do make it easier for legislators and teachers to study direct progress of specific material from year to year, which is what their aim is. The flaw in this reasoning, however, is that the public education system is not supposed to teach only specific material to students, but is supposed to deliver a broad education to students across multiple disciplines. Generally, board-certified teachers should be qualified to decide the education that is necessary for their students, and if they are not, the problem is the certifying program, rather than a lack of assessments or data.

One man that has played a large role in the recent increase in assessments is Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida and a current national education reform leader. Bush created a group composed of education commissioners nationwide called “Chiefs for Change,” who support his political agenda. This group of politicians has very close ties and contact with the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE). Coincidentally, this foundation publicly receives support from for-profit companies, namely Pearson and K12, and the famous non-profit, College Board. Naturally, Bush and his political allies try to help out these very supportive testing companies, by mandating outrageous amounts of testing, in addition to practice tests for said testing, which cost millions more. The lack of care given to the millions of students who are required to spend hours sitting for redundant and unnecessary assessments, in order to fill the testing companies’ wallets, should be considered a crime; corruption of this persuasion is absolutely unacceptable.

“I might not feel comfortable if I was his business associate doing that sort of business, but then again, how does stuff get done… Businessmen network, that’s what they do, but anyone doing anything has connections,” political theory professor Mr. Dunn said.

While it would be almost impossible to create laws limiting ex-politicians from using their networking to excel in business, it certainly does seem to be a morally skewed act. The only possible solution to this sort of corruption would be to spread awareness, so that people can make informed decisions in every day life, whether that is deciding what brand of textbook they will buy for their child, or whether they support the growth of assessments forced on their children.