I wrote in the last two posts I openned a discussion about the phenomenon of state-wide testing that determines whether students are retained or passed (out) on to the next grade. The results, as I pointed out in Georgia, are not exactly “world-class” although Governor and Superintendent of Schools have that as one of their “political” sound-bites. State wide-testing and standards…where did they come from? Is a recent idea? Or one dredged from the past?
I have personal knowledge from colleagues that worked at Florida State University in the 1970′s that the recent phenomenon of state-wide assessment and the development of “standards” was originally (in Flordia), an assessment program measuring only a sample of students, but this was quickly changed to include all students in selected grade levels. In fact, researchers I knew at FSU were responsible for developing the “objectives” (standards, really), and correlated “test” items for the junior high. Later, researchers at Georgia State University developed the same outline of objectives and test items for all of elementary science.
In 1977, the Florida legislature enacted a new accountability act that moved the statewide assessment tests to grades 3, 5, 8, and 11. The Legislature also authorized the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first required high school graduation test, which subsequently was implemented in October 1977.
Other states quickly became interested in the goings on in Florida, and soon, the idea spread.
In the 1980′s numerous commissions developed recommendations for the improvement of education. One of the outcomes of all of these reports was a movement to develop “national” standards in all of the academic areas (mathematics, social studies, science, etc.). The AAAS developed Benchmarks through Project 2061, and that was followed by the development of the National Science Education Standards by the National Research Council.
These are impressive documents. However, states such as Georgia have taken concepts from these documents, and put together their own standards, and then developed Criterion Referenced tests for each grade level. The tests measure basic knowledge and skills, and do not reflect the philosophy or pedagogy of the original Benchmarks or Standards.
The State Department of Eduction in Georgia is a huge and heavy bureacracy. It’s powerful, and individual districts are at its mercy. The annual presentation of test scores provides an ego experience for State officials where they can sit their offices and look at the “data” showing the percentage of students in each district that did not meet the standard, met the standard, or exceeded it. In fact, this summer the Superintendent will bring together educators from districts that did really well to discuss how they can improve those who didn’t do so well. Sounds logical, but its not the way to improve schools that are having huge problems. Look to the Gates foundation. Or elsewhere, but not the Department of Education.Tags: AAAS, Benchmarks for science literacy, Florida State University, Georgia State University, High-Stakes Testing, NSES, State-wide testing