Arguments against standardized testing have been shouted by teachers unions and their legislative cohorts for years. A few of their points carry some weight. But in all that noise, there has been very little in the way of viable alternatives to the dreaded tests.
When Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia branch of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke in Charleston recently, she repeated the complaint that “as time has gone on, we have put more burdens on our teachers to test kids, rather than to educate them.”
Well, to be fair, teachers are generally expected to educate students. One way of measuring the success of that education is to examine the results of tests such as the West Virginia Education Standards Test for students in third through 11th grades.
There must be some way to measure students’ progress, and to hold teachers accountable.
There must be a way to determine the quality of education and assess needs and abilities of students.
There must be a measure by which students’ competencies can be compared to those in other counties, states and countries.
In short, for now, there must be a test.
Activists such as Campbell have long wish lists when it comes to what they would like to see in West Virginia schools, and some of those ideas have value. But until they exert as much energy on finding a reasonable alternative to standardized tests as they do on trying to wish them away, programs such as the WESTEST remain the best method we have for letting our students and teachers know where they stand.