On several occasions, I have heard high-level education officials defend
standardized testing with the phrase “we measure what we treasure.”
I heard it first from an Assistant Secretary of Education who worked for Arne
Duncan. Just recently, Texas State Commissioner of Education Michael Williams
said it. Williams, it should be noted, is not an educator; before Governor Perry
named him to his post, he was in charge of regulating the very lightly regulated
energy industry in Texas.
But is it true that we measure what we treasure? No. Absolutely no.
What do most people treasure? Family. Friends. Home. Pets.
How do you measure your love for your spouse or your children? Do you give your children standardized tests to measure their value as human beings? Do you give them a score? Do you do that to your friends?
Do you love art? Travel?
I suspect that our society’s current obsession with test scores represents the (momentary) ascendancy of people who got high test scores and think that entitles them to rank and privilege. We can never measure what we treasure.
Anyone who uses that phrase “we measure what we treasure” should immediately agree to take the high school graduation test in his state and publish his scores.