The “Opt-Out of Educational Assessment” Movement: Just What Exactly Do They Stand For?

educational assessment

I recently read a disturbing article in the New York Times regarding the “Opt-Out of Educational Assessment” movement in the State of New York.  I find this downright appalling.  There are many sorts of standardized assessments, and the ones we are talking about here exist to improve the quality of education.  They check to see whether students are learning the curriculum, thereby providing some measure of accountability, as well as an index of improvement, to the teachers, schools, districts, and States.  They are used to help students, not hinder them.  By saying that you do not want your students involved in this, you are saying that you don’t want any accountability, and that you really do not care about education at an aggregate level.  You are happy just to send your kids to school and hope that the teacher teaches them something over the course of the year.

It’s also interesting that the article mentions this being in response, in part, to the fact that test scores “plummeted” after the introduction of Common Core.  The author here is definitely biased and/or uninformed.    Why were scores lower?  Because we no longer allowed States to doctor their data.  Under No Child Left Behind, States were required to assess students but could set the cutscores wherever they wanted.  So the backwoods States obviously set the bar pretty low, and reported that large numbers of their students were proficient.  They were also free to adjust their curriculum, i.e., teach 4th grade math in 5th grade so that, wow… the 5th graders seem to do well on math!  The move to Common Core was in part to prevent these two schemes, and of course such states saw much lower numbers of 5th grade math students score as proficient when being tested on actual 5th grade math, with a standard set that was similar to other states.  The Opt-Out of Educational Assessment movement is fighting this.

What is happening here, then is that people are blaming the test purely out of reactionary tendency.  An analogy might be that you are on a weight loss program and have for years intentionally miscalibrated your bathroom scale to read 10 pounds lower.  You get a fitness coach that calls you on it and forces you to correctly calibrate it, and then to actually weigh yourself once a week to see if you are losing weight.  So you blame 1) the scale, and 2) your fitness coach?  That is probably not going to help improve your fitness.  Or the education system.  But go ahead and opt out of weighing yourself.

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Nathan Thompson, PhD

Nathan Thompson earned his PhD in Psychometrics from the University of Minnesota, with a focus on computerized adaptive testing. His undergraduate degree was from Luther College with a triple major of Mathematics, Psychology, and Latin. He is primarily interested in the use of AI and software automation to augment and replace the work done by psychometricians, which has provided extensive experience in software design and programming. Dr. Thompson has published over 100 journal articles and conference presentations, but his favorite remains

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