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The Ethics of Testing Children Solely To Evaluate Adults


Just do a cost-benefit analysis. Is the benefit of knowing which teachers are contributing to student achievement worth the cost of students taking the test (as opposed to doing something else with the same time)? The answer could be yes, even from the student perspective. For example, if the test revealed that the students were not learning as much as similar students in other classes exposed to the same material, then those students might be offered time with a different teacher or offered extra resources to compensate for the crappy instruction that was not their fault.

<i>any work that involves research on humans is subject to IRB scrutiny and supervision</i> Any work that is "conducted" or "supported" by the federal government, or "for which a federal department or agency has specific responsibility for regulating as a research activity." See 45 C.F.R. part 46.

considering that the tests measure how much students have learned, I think it's OK.

I am glad someone has noticed this. jr, that's not the point (although the assertion that tests measure "how much" learning has happened is very debatable). While state-mandated educational testing gets a free pass on ethical reviews and oversight, research on education and educational tests by psychometricians do not. There is a weird double-standard here. Research on minors and their cognitive abilities, whether or not for their benefit, should have quality oversight that is at least similar to what we expect researchers with a state- or federal research grant to employ. A qualified, trained university researcher could not do this kind of work on minors or adults without getting approval from an ethics committee (sometimes more than one). Most likely, the researcher(s) would need to take a number of steps that are not used with state mandated testing now. This would include making reliability and validity measurements of the test and results available, obtaining parental and minor consent with an option to opt-out, assessing the likelihood of anxiety and distress during the test and offering ways to quit the study early, and promising to keep the data anonymous and/or destroying it. There are also issues of handling learning disabilities, tracking for item bias by gender and race, and usually the researcher is expected to make the experience as beneficial for the people participating as possible. Honestly, the entire in-school testing enterprise is so weak from a perspective of ethics and rigor that I've always seen is as more of a passing hobby that politicians like to engage in. Now that we are basing school closures, teacher tenure and payment, on such a weak system, the flaws in the rigor of the system are becoming exposed. It's all based on a house of cards. I do not believe an education researcher could get funded with a US Department of Education grant for work that proposed using the lax ethical approach that the Department of Education is encouraging through its own RTTT program.


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