Always a hot topic, especially in the elementary grades, testing is important. It is important that it is meaningful, age appropriate, and useful. Testing how and what children have learned is quite far away from simple. There are a lot of things that can be tested quickly, simply, and under different circumstances.
You’re likely to know right away if the engine you rebuilt works. Same with the supports you built under your deck. The plumbing connections to your washer will either leak or not as soon as you turn the water back on. Finding out if your child is learning how to do any number of things takes much more than a quick stress test.
Children learn at different rates. It’s not linear, but more like an explosion of thought, fear, exploration and creativity that leads to learning. One day can be spectacular, the next the worst ever. It’s for many different reasons that testing elementary, and secondary school, children is so convoluted. It is safe to say that not everyone will do their best on test day, and therein lies the problem. If that one day counts for too much, some children will end up in brackets that don’t actually measure what they know.
There is of course a thought out there that individualized testing for all the children taking tests is what is needed. There isn’t enough time in the entire school year to do such a thing. Multiple tests, which may be a politically incorrect term with “assessments” more likeable, on a regular basis throughout the school week and year, probably get the job done, as good days are mixed in with bad days, healthy days with not so healthy , and so on. Throw in a competent teacher’s daily observations and a decent picture of a child’s abilities appears.
None of that happens quickly. It takes a very long time for all of that to gel. It’s not subject the whims of politicians, business types, and “reformers” who want reams of data right now, today if not yesterday.
The actual business end of testing is very lucrative. If I could invent a testing scheme and sell it to the school system, I’d be wealthy, at least for the 3 years or so that it was in favor. With every change in the testing regime, it takes time, a lot of it, for parents, teachers and children to learn what is needed to test well. The testing business changes all too often, and hampers the data gathering that could actually be of some use.
Keep in mind that our education system teaches children, not widgets. As always, assume nothing, verify everything.