A running theme that the only thing that matters is test scores

according to the American Psychological Association, a study of Texas middle school students found that healthy lungs and hearts could “predict” better scores on reading and math tests.

Here’s another — from the UK but in the same vein — touting the conclusion that “daily exercise significantly improves pupils test scores.”

And another finding that integrating arts education into students “regular curriculum showed remarkable improvement on standardized test scores.”

The recent study that raised the most eyebrows, however, was a “working paper” reported by Education Week which revealed that students get better test scores when they are given an incentive up front — “a trophy, $10, or $20 in cash” — with the threat of having the reward taken away should scores turn out to be sub-par. The researchers call their approach “loss aversion.”

Notice the running theme throughout all these — that just about the only indicator of childrens wellbeing that matters anymore is how well they score on standardized tests? Hard to remember now that once upon a time, when Americans talked about children, healthy “hearts and lungs” were thought to be a pretty important condition for their own sake. Yet now that test scores have become the holy grail of education, other really important indicators of childrens wellbeing — their health, their opportunities to learn about the arts, their intrinsic love of learning — seem passé.

It’s important to be reminded that Americans haven’t always thought this way.

Jeff Bryant via http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2012083313/back-school-and-renewed-call-progressive-education

6 Responses to “A running theme that the only thing that matters is test scores”

  1. exactly Scott..

    just about the only indicator of childrens wellbeing that matters anymore is how well they score on standardized tests?

    thank you.

  2. I didn’t follow the link to the Texas study about the students’ “healthy hearts and lungs” but I wonder…. Are the healthy hearts and lungs actually a result of certain students having better access to regular healthcare, and nutrition, and opportunities for extracurricular activities? That is, are the higher test scores caused by the healthy children’s hearts and lungs, or are the higher scores and the healthy hearts/lungs both actually results from those particular students’ socio-economic status? For students from a lower SES background, who have poorer overall healthcare opportunities, their schools have fewer resources and the outcome is lower test scores.

    Or am I extending my rationale too far?

  3. Thanks for the reminder Scott; we have not always thought of our children this way. The truth is we still don’t think of our own children this way, but we’ve allowed those who make policy (usually for our children not for their own) to turn our children into statistics, and the wrong stats at that.
    Makes me want to go back and re-read Dewey.

  4. I recently saw an ad for Realtors on TV; selling point for buying a home? “Homeownership increases children’s self-esteem and improves test scores.” One statement had my head spinning. As a teacher, who is held “accountable” for test scores….well, I imagine other teachers think the same things.

  5. While I agree that it seems like everything is about test scores, I have trouble finding a replacement gauge. I do not advocate high stakes tests as the “be all end all” determinant of student success and teacher effectiveness. But what else can inform us on an annual basis? Perhaps the issue is not whether test scores are good indicators of success, but whether it is important to compare results nationally. Despite the notion that we live in a global economy where workers compete with citizens in the “third world”, our ultimate responsibility is to get kids ready to be productive where they live. How can we determine preparedness for life after school at each grade level?

  6. A possible replacement assessment that may, in fact, measure “college and career ready” is the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA). Check it out at http://www.cae.org/content/pro_collegework.htm. We have piloted this with a couple of our schools and are excited about the possibilities it may have to inform our most important work at school…making sure kids can think critically, problem solve, analyze information and even write well.

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