How much is too much? It’s a question we tend to ask when in the proximity of strawberry crèmes, or gin and tonics. One is fine, two could be great, but carry on and it all goes horribly wrong. On Saturday 24 October, the Obama administration applied what we might call the strawberry crème principle to education testing. In the USA, education is the responsibility of each state, not the federal government – but over the past two decades, the federal government has developed programmes with aspirational titles such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and Reach for the Sky (although I made the last one up).
Federal funding for education is tied to states’ agreement to accept accountability through testing. Tests developed rapidly, first in English and mathematics and then in formally non-tested subjects including PE and social studies – sometimes as a way of measuring pupil performance but also, and perhaps equally, as a way of managing teacher evaluation.
Opposition to testing was mounting. On the political right, conservatives argued that rapid development of (more…)