Thursday, May 21, 2015

Standardized Testing and the Death Penalty

Image result for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Two events this week reminded me of how much distance there is between myself and many other Americans.

In the wake of the death sentence imposed on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (the younger “Boston Bomber”), I’ve heard numerous anti-death penalty screeds. Even many so-called “Conservatives” (Bill O’Reilly is staunchly anti-death penalty) have argued for “life-without-parole.”

While I can begrudgingly accept the likes of O’Reilly’s, and other religious people’s objection to the death penalty, but there is absolutely no basis on which atheists and agnostics can oppose it. ALL morality is rooted in religion. The West’s moral code is based on Judeo-Christian canons, while Sharia’s moral code is rooted in Islam’s holy books, the Quran, the Sunnah and the Sira.

The primary argument against the death penalty has been that too many innocent people have been condemned to death over faulty eye witness and other circumstantial evidence.

THAT is a rational argument.

Of course it is NOT an argument against the death penalty itself, merely in favor of much more stringently applied standards of evidence.

Today, with ubiquitous video evidence (surveillance cameras are virtually every) and DNA evidence, we can be substantially assured that those convicted under such standards of evidence are guilty.

Another argument against the death penalty is that “It is NOT a deterrent to murder,” but that is wrong on its face.

Obviously, the death penalty deters THAT particular criminal from ever murdering again. Moreover, properly applied draconian punishments (like the very public and often horrific punishments meted out under Sharia) very much DO seem to deter violent crimes, as those countries have some of the lowest violent crime rates on the globe...far lower than America’s, even lower than places like Belgium and Japan.

In short, the death penalty works.

Moreover, once properly convicted (via video &/or DNA evidence) appeals should simply be strictly limited and ONLY to appeals that offer new evidence or incontrovertibly challenge existing evidence.

Oddly enough, many of the SAME people who so strongly and inanely oppose the death penalty also oppose standardized testing and with the same “damn the facts” kind of faith-based zeal.

One very obvious truth is undeniable. There are NO reliable subjective criteria (interviews, outside activities engaged in, even grades – which can and HAVE BEEN often manipulated by unscrupulous educrats), absolutely NONE.

Many opponents of standardized testing have looked to a single 2008 study that claims that “grades are a better indicator of College success than SAT exams,” going against decades of other studies that showed the reverse.

Moreover, the 2008 Study commissioned by the College Board found high school grades are sometimes a better predictor of first-year college grades than SAT scores (previous studies have shown that SAT scores accurately predict a student’s overall College performance). But the study also found that looking at the combination of SAT scores and high school grades predicts college outcomes better than either measure does alone.

Florida’s disgraced education commissioner, Tony Bennett’s misdeeds didn’t only occur in Florida, but in Indiana, where he was commissioner in 2012. According to stories in the Associated Press, which Bennett did not refute, he wrote an email to one of his agency colleagues demanding a higher grade for a school run by one of his major campaign donors. “Anything less than an A for Christel House,” Bennett allegedly wrote, “compromises all of our accountability work.” (

The founder of Christel House, philanthropist Christel DeHaan, had donated $130,000 to Bennett’s campaign for re-election as state school superintendent. The grade was quietly changed from a C to an A.

While unscrupulous educators can also look to circumvent standardized exams - 11 Atlanta teachers were arrested over correcting answers on their students standardized testing (, in Philadelphia, PA., a Principal and four teachers were arrested over the SAME issue, changing their student’s answers on standardized exams ( All that proves is that incompetent teachers, like most incompetent workers, will do anything to avoid looking...incompetent.

Grades are far easier to manipulate, far more difficult to quantify and therefor to uncover such abuses. Standardized testing makes it far easier to uncover and prosecute incompetent teachers who are doing a deliberate disservice to the children they educate.

Moreover, standardized testing DOES NOT require “teaching to the test,” and otherwise abandoning “holistic, interdisciplinary educational methods.” An effectively EDUCATED student will be able to handle a standardized exam. Poorly educated students are generally NOT able to articulate, or otherwise demonstrate a basic comprehension of the subjects they are taught.

In effect, the anti-standardized exam movement is a pro-incompetence movement.

In a world where grades cannot be trusted and incompetent educators actively seek to circumvent standardized exams that show how poorly educated their students really are, we NEED more standardized testing, not less.

A recent study done in New York State by Achieve and the Collaborative for Students Success shows that New York’s math and reading exams very much mirror the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is considered the gold-standard in student assessment.

New York State tops the list of states that honestly measure student progress. Recently, N.Y state Chancellor for Education, Merryl Tisch has said that this new report bolsters New York’s rigorous testing of public schools students (

Chacellor Tisch is right, just as the opponents of standardized testing are hopelessly wrong.

Like the death penalty deters murder, standardized testing works, in fact, it’s the only way to truly measure what a given student has learned over the course of their education.

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