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Source: NWEA
Source: NWEA

You might guess that standardized tests are the bane of both teachers’ and students’ existences, but two different opinion polls show a surprising level of support for bubbling in circles with number 2 pencils. In Teachers versus the Public, a book published on April 29, 2014, Harvard Professor Paul E. Peterson reports that 86 percent of the public and 77 percent of public school teachers support using tests for graduation. In other areas, from teacher pay to unions, there’s a giant gulf between teacher perceptions and public perceptions.

“Accountability is one of the issues where public and teachers agree” said Peterson.

Similarly, Northwest Evaluation Association, a non-profit maker of standardized tests, released a (self-serving) survey May 6, 2014 showing 94 percent of students agree that tests are very or somewhat important for understanding what they are learning. Among teachers, 50 percent say they could not be good teachers without any assessments in their teaching. (One can quibble with the wording of the question. I suspect that you would get a very different result if you asked teachers what they thought about the assessments that they are being forced to prep students for right now. )

But is seems that teachers are softening their resistance to testing. Two years earlier in 2011, 60 percent of teachers thought that students were wasting too much time preparing for and taking assessments. In 2013, only 53 percent of teachers thought too much student time was devoted to testing.

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Jill Barshay writes the weekly “Proof Points” column about education research and data, covering a range of topics from early childhood to higher education. She taught algebra to ninth-graders for...

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