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Standardized tests are not the answer. I know, I graded them.

While accountability in education is an important goal, it's critical to realize how difficult that might be to pin down.

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President Obama's "Race to the Top" initiative promotes an accountability in education that links teacher evaluations with student test scores. While many will point to the potential problems this poses for the classroom, there's something else to think about. This position exhibits considerable confidence in the results returned to students by the standardized testing industry.

That's not a faith I share.The 15 years I spent scoring student essays and written responses to state K-12 tests revealed a process that was less "scientifically based research" (a heady phrase dropped more than 100 times in No Child Left Behind) than a theater of the absurd.

On one of the first tests I scored, I was hired (after barely flashing my college diploma at a human resources representative) to assess high school writing. It was a job granted with the caveat that as temporary workers, we could keep the position only if we passed a "qualifying" test.

We'd have to score enough student essays accurately during a training session to prove we could do the job in a standardized way, a process that allowed the testing company that hired us to claim just how capable, consistent, and qualified its employees were.

It was a nerve-racking experience to know our jobs hinged on those "qualifying" tests, but in the end we part-timers needn't have worried so much.

After two days of training, nearly half the 100 people applying for the job failed the tests and were fired. Our unemployment lasted only about 12 hours. The next morning nearly every one of us flunkies was hired right back, an employment rebirth that occurred just as soon as the testing company realized it was short on personnel.


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