Monday, April 22, 2013

The Case For Standardized Testing (Part I): The NRA Defense

Inspired by Kathleen Porter-Magee of The Fordham Institute, I present a series on the remarkable weakness of the case for standardized testing in our education policy and education system. This is part one.

The Case For Standardized Testing: The NRA Defense

Many people who defend either testing policies, the basic idea of standardized tests or the tests themselves try to differentiate between what they are defending and some other flawed part of the equation.

For example, Bonny Buffington tweeted last week, "Standardized tests aren't the problem. It's the undue emphasis on them that causes the stifling of creativity. #edchat." Ms. Porter-Magee has herself tried to differentiate the tests from testing policy.

I don't buy it. To my ears, that sounds like the old line, "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." The guns line, so attacked, refuted and mocked through the years, doesn't need explaining*.

*Full disclosure: when I was in high school so many decades ago, one of the many pins/buttons I wore said, "Bombs don't kill people, explosions kill people."

The fact is that testing policy depends on the tests we have. The fact is that the test developers know how their tests are already being used, and how the trends in how tests are being used suggest they will be used in the near future. Separating the tests from testing policy is as foolish as trying to say that guns are not relevant to understanding our murder rate or the violence in our society.

I call this line of argument The NRA Defense.

I could also call it the Ostrich Defense, because it is like sticking your head in the sand. But I think the obvious finger pointing, as though pointing makes it true, should be highlighted.

So, when we examine the case for standardized tests, or for standardized testing policy, let's skip past that NRA Defense finger pointing, and examine all of it as inextricably tied together, as it actually is.


  1. What bullshit. If you have an argument, make it. Instead, like so many critics of ed reform, you rely on name-calling.

  2. Mr. Kilroy,

    1) You might not have noticed, but this post has "Part I" in the the title. There are plenty (more) arguments to come.

    2) Whom did I call a name? What name did I use?

    3) I believe that if you read more closely, you might realize that what I did was respond to a particular argument by TBA supports by highlighting how it parallels another (widely discredited) argument. That is an element of argument.

    4) If you had followed the first link in the post, you would have found where I made a large number of arguments in direct response to MPM's piece.

    5) I wonder how your standard or definition of "name calling" applies to your comment.

    I welcome your response to the argument I've made in this post, and the arguments I make in the remainder of this series.