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Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is Wrong with Trying to Raise Test Scores? Five short answers.



I had the opportunity to meet with the great test score promoters in Washington but turned it down. What would be the point? The entire administration is devoted to raising test scores. I would convince no political person to change his or her view. That having been said, what could be really be wrong with testing and emphasizing test scores?



  1. Testing teaches that there are right answers. The problem is that is that in real life, the important questions don’t have answers that are clearly right or wrong. "Knowing the answer" has made school into Jeopardy. It is nice to win a game show, but important decisions are made through argumentation and force of reason not knowing the right answer.

  2. Testing teaches that some subjects are more important than others. The tests are small in number. If there were thousands to choose from, then perhaps people could get tested in fiber optics instead of history. But the system has determined which subjects are the most important. Just remember that the system made that determination in 1892. Some things have changed in the world since then. No one in Washington seems to have noticed.

  3. Testing focuses teachers on winning not teaching. Many teachers are extremely frustrated by the system they have found themselves to be a part of. They cannot afford to spend time teaching a student or getting a concept across if the issues being taught are not on the tests. They are judged on the basis of test scores. So, any rational teacher gives up teaching and becomes a kind of test preparation coach.

  4. Students learn that memorization is more important than thinking. Teaching students to reason ought to be the beginning and end of what education is about But in an answer-obsessed world, "go figure it out for yourself" or "go try it and see what happens" are replaced by more memorization. Giving kids a chance to fail helps them learn. Actively preventing failure by telling the right answer just helps kids pass tests.

  5. Innovation in education is eliminated. How can we offer new curricula and new ways of learning if no matter what we do children must pass algebra tests? The administration says science is important over and over again but since science in high school is defined by boring tests of vocabulary terms and definitions for the most part, who would be excited to learn science? If a really good scientific reasoning curriculum were created the schools could not offer it unless it helped kids pass the very same tests that that curriculum was intended to replace.


Oh. One more thing. Testing also reduces knowledge to short answers like the ones I have given here. In reality, serious argumentation is much more lengthy.

2 comments:

mjtrout said...

Roger I am 100% behind you. I would love you to comment on my post http://bit.ly/HqOqW I just recently, came across your old 1999 paper you wrote on the future of education. wow you were right on target. I Founded EDUIT, Inc in 2001 to flatten global education and been waiting. I would love to connect and bring you on to the EDUIT, Inc board.

Let me know.

Heather said...

I'm just glad to know I'm not the only one who thinks standardized testing in crazy.