Right Task Wrong Tool

By W. James Popham

Most Americans, and that includes school board members, believe the best way to evaluate a school is to see how well its students perform on a standardized achievement test. Despite the pervasiveness of this belief, however, it is quite wrong.

Clearly, if education policy makers are arriving at flawed conclusions about school quality by using the wrong evidence, then those conclusions are likely to produce unsound policies. Truly successful schools may be regarded as ineffective; truly unsuccessful schools may be regarded as effective. When education policy makers are guided by the wrong measurement data, it is a certainty that misguided policies will follow.

There are reasons why the evaluation of educational quality using standardized achievement tests is improper. If education policy makers begin to recognize the shortcomings of an incorrect evaluative approach, they can then move toward more defensible ways of evaluating schools.
 
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