I like tests, and I even like standardized tests. I would like to have a standardized reading test where you have to read something that is worthwhile, or write something that is worthwhile. But what we have now is a national scandal in testing.
A doctor in West Virginia has pointed out that, according to the tests, everyone in America is just like everyone in Lake Woebegon: we are all above average. And that means that the tests are really not tests; they are cosmetics. They are designed to make everybody look good. The tests show that every state is above average and the averages go up and up every year, except for the three states that don't allow anybody to look at the tests in advance or that follow some different procedure.
So that tells you what is going on in the other states, just how many are cheating. There are also different sets of norms for the tests. There are urban norms and there are suburban norms, and so forth, and districts can decide to compare themselves against anybody they choose. So, if you are a clever school board or superintendent, you can first match yourself against affluent districts and make yourself look real bad. Then you can say, "Now I'm going to do something about this," and next year you'll match yourself against New York City, Detroit, et cetera, and you will look better all of a sudden. And there is no legal requirement that you have to tell the people that you have changed the rules of how you are reporting or who it is that you are comparing yourself with.
If you look at the same standardized test today and ten years ago, you will find that there was decent poetry on it ten years ago. Today, it's pure doggerel, as are the tests themselves. I would love to have standardized tests that we could have confidence in, and I hope that somebody is out there building them. I am a strong believer in testing. I believe the public is spending a lot of money on education, and they've got a right to know what the schools are doing and what the schools are not doing. They are not getting that today with the tests that are out there.