Look. If the ISTEP were about how well a kid could play a round of 9 holes of golf, it wouldn't stop it from being the focus. The teachers would break down a kid's golf swing into tiny practiced pieces and take data point after data point about the intricacies of the kid's stroke and putt and whatever (I don't know golf so it's a bad analogy). They might read a little about golf, but mostly they would practice strokes and putts over and over. They would lift weights and run and do exercise to ensure that they were in golf shape.
The kids who had never touched a golf club in their lives would do poorly. The kids who weren't developmentally ready for that kind of motor development ability would do poorly. The kids who were blind would be forced to hit at an invisible ball because to do otherwise would be to "lower expectations."
Everything else would go by the wayside. Math, reading, science, you name it.
Wealthy schools and their teachers would be fine. Kids could hit the golf course. Poor kids would have no clubs, no place to practice at home, no private instructors. Because the rich kids would already know how to play the game well, teachers and administrators would not be as worried about how they did on everything. They would allow kids to play many rounds of golf for the fun of it. Kids would get to create their own games of golf, invent their own rules. Some kids would be stressed, though; the kids who weren't physically dexterous or capable, would feel terrible. They would be worried about it. Kids who had anxiety issues might just not be able to hit the ball on cue.
Meanwhile, poor kids would only do drills and drills. Teachers would give them gold stars for jobs well done (per admin request) and would be stressing about it: "You can do it! Get that putt! Sink it!"
Above all else, many kids would simply have no love left for the game of golf.
This is probably a bad analogy. Forgive me. It's oversimplifying and stereotyping a complicated situation. But my point is:
Tying a test to the fear of state takeover is the problem. Branding kids and teachers within schools..with scarlet letters of shame is the problem. Equating test scores with "success" (despite all research to the contrary) is the problem. Tying teacher evaluations, job security and pay to the scores is the problem.
There is no neat formula to show learning and teaching success per say. Unless it's using developmentally appropriate, high-interest activities and practice. It's one of the most human activities and it is so nuanced and art-like and individual to do well, that we need to evaluate this in the same way.
As a mom, the most important thing to me is that my child is exposed to a vast array of subjects and experiences that engage him intellectually, physically, emotionally. I want him to be cared for and to thus feel good about himself above all else, because I know if he is confident, he will be willing to make mistakes and explore. If he is willing to do that, then I know that he will learn. I want him to be able to get along with his peers and to think deeply about all different subjects from differing points of view. I want him to be able to express himself well verbally, in writing and even in art! There are so many ways that I gauge the success of his school experiences and effectiveness of his teachers.
The quantifying of the unquantifiable is not done because people care about our kids. They have no research to back their moves. These are people funded by those who would like public education to fail and who are succeeding at slowly killing it by a death of a thousand cuts, as they say. Some may be well-intentioned. Many believe that public education is for the poor people of color and they don't want their kids in school with them. Some believe if their children attend public school, they will learn socialist ideas because they think these "government-run" schools are socialist in and of themselves. They don't want public schools to succeed.
High stakes testing is the weapon they are using to destroy public education. My kids and yours will be collateral damage. The worst casualty will be our democracy. If we lose sight of the common good, we lose sight of what we are here for.