Pop Quiz on Standardized Testing

by Lisa Guisbond, 2013-01-17

If you are surprised at the surge of support for Seattle’s Garfield High teachers’ boycott of district-mandated standardized tests, you probably haven’t been paying enough attention. Perhaps a pop quiz will help. In June, I constructed a pop quiz on our national obsession with testing that proved surprisingly popular. It included questions on subjects such as Florida’s decision to dramatically lower the passing score on its writing exam due to embarrassing scoring glitches, New York’s eighth grade test and its absurdly confusing reading comprehension questions, and who pays for and who profits from our national testing explosion. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with fast-moving developments in the national rebellion against high-stakes testing, so here’s another pop quiz to keep you on track:

1. What reasons did Garfield High School teachers give for boycotting the Measure of Academic Progress tests?

a) “It is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress.”

b) “There seems to be little overlap between what teachers are expected to teach (state and district standards) and what is measured on the test.”

c) The district planned to use the test to evaluate teachers even though the test-maker itself said it is not accurate enough to be used to evaluate individual teachers.

d) All of the above.

2. Why did award-winning Florida second-grade teacher Kim Cook (voted teacher of the year by her peers) receive an “unsatisfactory” evaluation that put her job in jeopardy?


a) The Florida legislature passed a law mandating that 40% of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on student scores on the state’s standardized tests.

b) High marks on the other components of the evaluation– her principal’s appraisal and her lesson plan—were outweighed by the “value-added measure” based solely on student test scores.

c) The system used test scores of 3rd graders from a different school to measure Ms. Cook’s “value added,” though Ms. Cook had never taught any of those children.

d) All of the above.


3. When Vice President Steve Ferrara of the $1.5 billion testing company Pearson blogged that testing accounts for “a minuscule percentage of education spending,” and “students in grades 3-8 spend about ten hours on end of year tests … about a day and a half of school per year,” which of these comments was posted in response?

a) “In my kids’ school, there are TWO practice tests before the real one (our first was before Thanksgiving), and countless days and weeks of test prep-type sessions: practice summarizing, practice finding the “best answer” of 4, practice underlining and sussing out the main point of ridiculously contrived articles and stories, resulting in WEEKS of instructional time instructing THE TEST. WEEKS. Not TEN HOURS.”

b) “While the actual tests are ten hours (which by the way, is ridiculously too long for a third grader), the amount of preparation that goes into getting ready for the tests takes away from lessons that should focus on critical thinking.”

c) “I think it is too much money on tests that are riddled with errors. I think that writing tests with a profit motive will lead to cut corners. The profit has to come from somewhere. In New York State, tests used to be made up by groups of teachers. The only motive was writing a good test. Testing is eating up our entire educational system. The 11 hours of Pearson produced state tests my fourth grader is supposed to take in the spring (she is not because we are opting her out of them) has put complete control of the rest of her instructional time in the hands of Pearson and the State.”

d) All of the above.


4. Which of these statements was made by a school superintendent in the last few months?

a) “I am very troubled by the amount of testing we are being asked to do. We can teach our way to the top, but we cannot test our way to the top.

b) “We’re getting ready in the state of North Carolina to put out 177 new exams.”

c) “We need a three-year moratorium on all standardized tests.”

d) All of the above.


5. In light of growing opposition by parents, students, teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards to the overuse and abuse of standardized testing (including many voters’ rejection of policies favored by the administration) what has Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he will do?

a) “Our basic theory of action is not going to change.”

b) “Our job, in a second term, is to support the bold and transformational reforms at the state and local level that so many of you have pursued during the last four years.”

c) Continue “to provide incentives and supports” for states to implement the administration’s favored reforms.

d) All of the above.


6. What can parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members do to change the costly and destructive path we are on?

a) Sign the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing and tell all your friends and relatives to do the same.

b) Get involved with your local schools to review and reconsider the amount and uses of testing.

c) Write your members of Congress or your legislature and tell them federal/state education policy needs to fundamentally change course and regain a sane and reasonable approach to assessment and accountability.

d) Download FairTest’s infographic on what’s wrong with standardized tests and pass it around.

e) All of the above.


[The correct answer to all of the questions is “All of the above.”]

This piece is reprinted from commondreams.org