I Demand More Standardized Tests

Teachers at 2nd school boycott ISAT
Activists say they know of 1,000 kids at 57 schools who are also skipping the test.
-Linda Lutton, Chicagopublicradio.org, February 1, 2014

This is an outrage. I can’t believe that Chicago Public Schools parents and teachers would act like this. I’m already deeply concerned that this is the last year for the test in question, the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). What if public schools in Chicago actually started testing less? It’s too horrible to think about.

I demand MORE standardized testing for public school children. Because I love tests and test scores. I need tests – and so do you.

How did we pick a school for our kids? By looking at test scores. How do we evaluate the quality of a school? Test scores. I don’t know if my principal is doing a good job, so I better go look at our test scores. Sure, in Atlanta and DC you can buy test scores, but in Chicago, the only way to get test scores is via sweet, wonderful standardized tests.

You, me, and everyone we know carefully researched schools’ test scores around the time our oldest kids turned three, if not before. Well, this is true for those of us who stayed in the city and opted for public schools. The rest of our friends got so frightened looking at their neighborhood school’s scores that they decamped for the burbs or sent their kids to private schools. Private schools aren’t big on standardized tests. We know they’re good because they cost a lot. Also, because the Mayor and the President – both of whom are really concerned about inequality – sent their kids to one.

We pored over that big catalog of school info we got from the library. Checked out the schools test scores online. Looked at websites that compared schools. Not a single one of these resources compared schools based on how happy or well adjusted the kids were. That’s what counseling and Zoloft are for! Worse, we got our minds turned inside out because the State of Illinois and the Board of Education changed standards often enough that it was impossible to make apples to apples comparisons between schools. Of course, in doing so we totally bought the idea that standardized test scores are a useful way to compare schools in the first place. Because we LOVE test scores.

We don’t usually say that we love standardized tests. We use our clever secret code. For example, we can say that we want our children to be “challenged” in school. So clever. We don’t mean challenged like Malala Yousafzi or like the kids on the West Side of Chicago who have to cross gang borders to get to their new school because their neighborhood school was shut. What we mean is that our kids are super smart, super creative, and super artistic. They’re like Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, and Steve Martin all rolled into one. They’re Mega-Steves. And Mega-Steves need a special type of environment in which they can thrive. To be clear: it’s not that I think my Mega-Steves should be tested, but I want all the other kids in the school tested to make sure my Mega-Steves will reach their full potential. 

It’s ok, no one but we affluent white people here. We can be honest. Once all of our kids are in a school, we will speak up and announce that we’re against testing. After all, if it weren’t for the time spent on testing, our kids would have time to learn more about music, poetry, and other arts. In the current curriculum, we simply don’t have time for those things. We have to focus on STEM subjects. And that’s as it should be. STEM makes for nice salaries. Arts make for nice hobbies.

This isn’t just for our kids. Standardized test scores are important for the community. Communities do best when they share the common bond of rising property values. Property values in Chicago rise based on the test scores of the local school.  Without testing, property values fall. No one can get a second mortgage to add 900 square feet to their kitchen. They leave, their house goes rental, and suddenly the Starbucks and Forever Yogurt decide to open somewhere else. What will stop this? More standardized test scores.

When high school rolls around, you can bet that we’ll be looking at standardized test scores again. All of us who love test scores love high schools. In addition to the mandated tests, we can also look at data from the SAT and the ACT. There are so many good numbers to obsess about – and that’s before we get to the most important thing: college placement data. There is no way I’m sending my kids to a school that isn’t ranked well by US News and World Report. How are they going to get into a top five business school and earn a six figure salary?

I just want them to be able to afford a nice house in a neighborhood with good schools.

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4 thoughts on “I Demand More Standardized Tests

  1. Did you say you can buy test scores in Atlanta and Dc but not Chicago? Some politician somewhere in this city isn’t doing his job. Everything in Chicago can be bought and paid for-why not test scores. This is an outrage!

  2. Except there wasn’t test score data available for our school when your kid was 3. We opted for it on blind faith. 🙂

  3. […] these kids for. From the minute they were born, we made our decisions on where to live based on the test scores of the local schools and their presumed output. We’re abandoning public schools broadly, and […]

  4. […] found to preserve inequality in Chicago? With our public schools! What’s the point of being a privileged white family in CPS if we’re going to be treated like those families whose depressing stories always lead […]

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