Standardized Testing, Vision: 2020

What Gets Measured, Gets Done

Below are the remarks made by JCTA member Ryan Davis a teacher at Central HS, to the JCPS Board of Education on Tuesday, March 22nd. Ryan has worked diligently at Central HS to organize his colleagues to reduce redundant and unnecessary testing.

My name is Ryan Davis. I’m a teacher at Central High school.ryan

I want to first say that I appreciate the Board calendaring time to continue to work towards its goal of reducing multiple choice testing. To that end, I’m here today to present a petition asking the Board to exercise its authority in assessment to discontinue district practice of Proficiency testing. The petition has been signed by myself and every teacher in my building who is required to give these tests.

Personally, I’m passionate about working toward the district’s already defined goals of deeper learning, personalized learning, and an increased professional capacity of teachers. But, I’ve seen Proficiency testing hinder our ability to progress toward those goals.

So, while the aphorism “What get measured, gets done” is often used to support such testing, if we accept it as true, we must then ask what Proficiency testing as a required measurement is actually getting done in our At the most basic level, this begins by determining what is being measured. Proficiency tests consist primarily of multiple choice questions that engender a low level, rote definition of knowledge and learning.

“What gets measured, gets done”

When the Proficiency tests do the measuring, what gets done is a narrowing and shallowing of expectation and content that moves us further away from a goal of deeper learning.

This is not a problem that can be fixed with better Proficiency tests, because we must also consider the effects of the act of measurement itself. It’s tempting to think of testing as non-invasive procedure. But, Proficiency assessments are more akin to the measuring the volume of an object by placing it in a glass of water and seeing how much is displaced.

“What gets measured, gets done”

Proficiency tests measure in a manner that encourages a shifting of the entire curriculum, often pushing the best parts out. They encourage a predetermined pace and sequence where instructional decisions become predicated NOT on the needs of a student, but on the needs of a test. They move us further from our goal of personalized instruction.

Finally, we must also consider how the results of the measurement are interpreted. As detailed in the petition, the design of these tests inevitably leads to convoluted and invalid results. Nevertheless, the results our often used as the sole judgments of how our students and school are doing. We are asked to make changes or addressed perceived deficits based on the results of these tests.

“What gets measured, gets done”

These measures result in a culture more reliant on a narrow, fallible test, than on a teacher’s professional knowledge of content, pedagogy, and their individual students. They undermine attempts to build a culture based on our professional capacity.

Yet, as teachers, we push back, every day, against the forces of a system where Proficiency testing is the measure that drives what gets done. We push our students and our schools to work beyond the culture this system creates. We bring this petition to you today to ask for relief from these assessments, and to help us to align systems to work concert with our goals of deeper, more personalized learning, and work toward a culture that trusts and utilizes our professional capacity as teachers.

JCTA Encourages teachers at other schools to collect signatures on this petition and have a representative present them at school board meetings.

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