by Rob Levine
Apr 15, 2015, 4:00 PM

High-stakes hypocrisy

Accountability is for everyone else

Our new “high-stakes” educational accountability system relies on one thing: The results from student testing. The stakes are indeed high for everyone except two groups: students and testing vendors.

The tests are almost meaningless to students – they have no effect on advancement or graduation, and the results returned to them are sparse and useless. In many cases results aren’t even available to those who make the high-stakes decisions until half a year later. As lead education deformer Merryl Tisch admitted on the Chris Hayes show, the testing isn’t about the children – its purpose is to allow adults to judge their education system.

But for teachers, principals and schools the results of the tests that are meaningless to students can spell metaphorical death – teachers and principals can lose their jobs, and schools can be shuttered.

The lack of accountability for the testing companies stands in stark contrast to the fates of their victims. States and districts spend hundreds of millions of dollars for testing services. You’d think with those kinds of stakes and money flying around the testing companies would at a minimum make sure that kids can actually take their tests.

You’d be wrong. Try googling “testing glitch” someday to see just how bad the testing companies are at administering tests – let alone supplying valid ones. Yesterday, one of the first major testing days of the testing season, industry giant Pearson reported that exactly zero of its 11 testing states were operating properly. You can check the results any day here. And it’s not just this month or this year; testing systems fail all over the country every year.

These “glitches” don’t just represent the failure of computer systems; in a deeper sense they represent the contempt education deformers, and more specifically testing companies, have for the public. What could be more disrespectful than holding people professionally existentially accountable for the results of a test that the proprietors don’t even care enough about to make work properly? One thing’s for sure: Pearson and the other testing companies’ failures won’t end up getting them degraded like the teachers, principals and schools. That kind of accountability is for everybody else.

“Glitches” in just the past two days:


‘Technical difficulties’ cause shutdown of standardized testing in Colorado

Nevada and North Dakota

Computer glitch halts Common Core testing in Nevada

New Jersey

PARCC testing starts in N.J. after morning glitch


For students taking MCAs, two days of computer glitches

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