Friday, January 18, 2008

Failing the Test

Pauline Vu of takes a look at the impact and variation in federally mandated testing programs (Article). This is an interesting report for anyone involved in education and specifically testing as she documents how different are the approaches to testing undertaken by different states. Perhaps no news to education publishers, but she notes that the testing market has grown from $400mm to over $1.1bill in the years since the passage of no child left behind (2001). It follows then that the largest publishers have invested heavily in this segment and that the business is dominated by the top five education publishers. From her article:

Much of the work is done by five giants: CTB/McGraw-Hill, Educational Testing Service, Harcourt Assessment, Pearson Educational Measurement and Riverside Publishing. Together, the companies own about 90 percent of the state-testing business, which has become a $1.1 billion industry since passage of the federal No child Left Behind Act in 2001. The law, which took effect in January 2002, requires states to give annual reading and math tests to third- through eighth-graders, and to test students in those subjects once again in high school
The absence of both Federal guidelines and consistency from state to state has also created significant disparity in testing approaches and effectiveness. This coupled with a tendency to manipulate the test outcomes - thereby making the educators look more effective - has some worried that the objectives in the testing program are compromised.
“States are not putting any more resources into the testing infrastructure, and as a result, we are getting testing on the cheap, and that is working against No Child Left Behind’s efforts to produce high-quality assessments that promote higher standards,” said Thomas Toch, the co-director of Education Sector, a nonpartisan think tank. “If we’re going to make tests the driver of quality in public education, then we need to invest to ensure that we get tests that are up to that task.”
There is little doubt that the testing business will continue to grow. In the absence of 'no child left behind' teachers and administrators have now 'drunk the cool aid' and understand that they can use testing to their own advantage. Ironically, without uniform objectives, practices and policies it is the students who will be left disadvantaged. There is much more in the article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FYI- Pearson purchased Harcourt recently. Pearson now administers well over half of the NCLB tests.