Furor Over Testing Excesses Shows No Letup

Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott has kept the pot boiling this week on the issue of standardized testing and its excesses. Echoing remarks he made last week at the State Board of Education, the commissioner yesterday told a gathering of superintendents in Austin that the current testing system is a “perversion” of the original ideas behind the state’s accountability system.

This time Scott went even further, saying he would waive the use of students’ scores on state end-of-course exams as part of students’ grades this year, if only he had the authority to do so. He also added a new argument to his critique of the excessive emphasis on testing. If insufficient resources are provided to help students at risk of failing standardized tests, he said, then he would not certify the enforceability of the law barring advancement of students who fail the exams—and absent his certification, the requirement would be suspended.

It did not seem as if the commissioner was talking about any imminent decision, but the public-relations damage done to the testing regime was treated as a clear and present danger by the devotees of test-driven accountability. Texas Association of Business leader Bill Hammond called Scott a “cheerleader for mediocrity.” Senate Education Committee chair Florence Shapiro, Republican of Plano, said the commissioner has some explaining to do. But we beg to differ. It is the ardent cheerleaders for high-stakes standardized testing that narrows curriculum and detracts from real teaching and learning who owe students, parents, educators, and citizens an explanation.