Testing Educational Justice

In “Spinning America’s Report Card,” Paul E. Peterson and Eric A. Hanushek wrote “…progress for American children came to a halt when the Obama administration stopped focusing on student test scores….”

In today’s Wall Street Journal, the authors of the Friedman Foundation’s More Than Scores report, Jim Kelly and Ben Scafidi, provide a different perspective on high-stakes testing:

Messrs. Peterson and Hanushek correctly refute the Obama administration’s claim of significant student performance progress on the NAEP math and reading standardized tests. Yet implicit in the valuable exercise performed by those champions of well-reasoned education policy is support for a disturbing development—the increasing tendency of education reformers to equate school accountability with student results on standardized tests. That equation overshadows the fact most parents place little emphasis on standardized test scores. More than standardized test scores, parents of those receiving scholarships through Georgia’s largest K–12 tuition tax-credit program emphasize school discipline, a better learning environment, smaller class sizes, improved student safety and more individual attention for their children.

Instead of acknowledging this reality and pursuing educational freedom that empowers parents to secure the education that is in the best interests of their children, some reformers are pursuing educational justice, which is designed to “rescue” children of low-income families from failing public schools. But that requires private schools to then prove they are rescuing children by raising student standardized test scores, which means adopting national standards, which means aligning the curriculum to those standards, which means testing students on that curriculum, which means teaching to the test—just like the public schools those families are trying to escape.

Kelly and Scafidi don’t deny the need for school accountability in More Than Scores. Rather, they question who should be driving it: government or parents? That sounds a lot like another education policy debate we’re having right now, doesn’t it?