A report just released by the NY Regents in response to recent testing scandals proposes a common-sense set of improved security measures. The chief recommendations are that teachers would no longer individually score their own students’ work, and test administration would be limited to a single day instead of a week’s window of time.

The first point is just common sense: we would not want the diving coach to be the diving judge; we would not want the Prosecutor to be the Judge: there is limited credibility and too much potential for abuse when individuals with vested interest are the sole arbiters, working in isolation.

Some of the proposed changes made in the report range from the simple step of having another teacher in the school read one’s papers to more substantive steps such as regional scoring and distribiuted scoring via the Internet. One proposal is to go to centralized scoring of multiple-choice items as is done in every other state. This last idea would be a huge mistake – not for security reasons but for pedagogical reasons. Students and teachers gain when the test is transparent, and a fair accountability system depends upon such transparency.

By having everyone score exams, the exam is demystified, professional conversation about results and evidence is greatly enhanced, and it becomes far more likely that grading patterns in a school are more valid and reliable. In other words, via the testing system NY teachers currently have built-in good-quality professional development at the end of each year – something teachers in every other state lack. Indeed, in other states there is in my experience greater fear and ignorance about just what the tests test, especially in states that don’t even release tests after the fact. Moving in this direction would be a major step backwards in a standards-based system of accountability.

Centralized scoring, while appealing from a security perspective, is in other words disastrous from a professional-development perspective. Teachers would be less likely understand the test, what it measures, and how to think about results effectively moving forward. This will ironically make it less likely that schools can meet standards.

So, please, educators of New York: immediately contact the Board of Regents and your Superintendent to lobby for cross-school or regional scoring of student papers as the best proposal. Yes, it would mean a little administrative hassle just before graduation, but the profession of teaching and the cause of learning argue strongly for it.

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