Commonsense Revelations about the Use of Standardized Testing in Ohio1
Randy L. Hoover, Ph. D.
There is a certain irony in the conceptual deconstruction of Ohio's education accountability system that should not go unnoticed. While any worthwhile analysis of the accountability system requires the understanding and use of key mathematical and statistical concepts to reveal the worthiness and credibility of the metrics used in the system, the application of commonsense logic is also very effective. This is especially true in exposing the most fundamentally false assumptions upon which the entire system is based—the standardized tests.
The following items represent some of the assumptions about the nature of being human and the role of testing that are implicit in Ohio's system of education accountability. It should be obvious through the application of commonsense logic that none of the items are true, yet the achievement test scores are treated and used by the State of Ohio as if they were all true and valid claims. It we take away even one of these assumptions, the whole testing and accountability scheme used in Ohio begins to fall apart.
The following list of assumptions are by no means all inclusive. However, they are the fundamental assumptions upon which the State of Ohio bases all of the claims it makes about student, school, and educator performance. While the metrics system used in Ohio generates a variety of numeric claims and conclusions, it is absolutely vital to understand that no matter the particular mathematical manipulation employed by the state to produce the claim it wants, the data feeding the claims is almost exclusively derived from the standardized test scores.
Therefore, when we can show the tests to be inaccurate and invalid, we have similarly shown any subsequent use of test data to make conclusions about education in Ohio to be fallacious and not at all credible. Though Ohio's use of value added is extremely inaccurate and mathematically invalid for a number of reasons, the best argument against its use comes from the fact that it is based entirely on standardized test scores. All Ohio public school educators need to know that for Ohio's educational accountability system's claims to be believed, all of the following assumptions must be true.
Assumptions Undergirding Standardized Tests and their Uses in Ohio
- A single paper-and-pencil test can determine the knowledge, intellect, aptitude, talent, capability, and worth of the student who takes it.
- All children are identical:
- The life experience of a child outside of school does not effect test performance.
- All children have the same abilities.
- All children have the same attitude toward school.
- All children can learn at grade level regardless of developmental or ability level.
- All children have the same neighborhood and home conditions.
- All children have the same intellectual gifts and deficits.
- All children have the same developmental readiness.
- All children have the same rate of intellectual maturation.
- All children have the same quality prenatal and postnatal health care.
- All people are good test takers.
- Student test performance is always caused by teacher performance.
- There is no such thing as low-performing students, only low-performing teachers.
- We can test people into learning.
- The sole purpose of going to school is to score well on a standardized test.
- Good teaching is solely about test scores.
If you believe these assumptions, none of which is true, you are set to believe the claims of Ohio's educational accountability system.
1 These false assumptions are not limited to Ohio. For the most part, any state using standardized tests as the outcome measure of school effectiveness is guilty of making the same assumptions.