Peter Goodman: How Would We Assess Students Without Standardized Tests?

Peter Goodman takes up the challenge that I put down a while back in a post about why we need standardized testing in every grade for every child.

It is worth noting that to my knowledge we are the only nation in the world that insists on testing every child from grade 3-8, and we have very little to show for it. Even if test scores went up, that wouldn’t mean that children are better educated. It means that we did a better job of test prep and teaching to the test. What happens to imagination and creativity when children are tested nonstop for years, given the instruction that every question has a right answer and only one right answer? None of us knows, but I doubt that it is good.

Peter notes that Regents tests have been around since the 1880s, but they were not required of every student until fairly recently, when New York Commissioner Rick Mills had the bright idea that no one should get a diploma unless he or she could pass five Regents exams. The exams were made simpler, to be sure; if the standards were kept high, most students would never finish high school.

Peter offers a number of examples of alternatives, all worth considering. The New York Performance Consortium does not administer the state exams, and their students do well in terms of high school graduation, college admission, and persistence in college.

Sometimes I wonder how my generation ever managed to acquire an education, since we almost never took standardized tests. The schools trusted our teachers to test us, using their own tests.

The only purpose of standardized tests is to compare students, to give them a ranking and a rating, but not to provide any information whatever about what they know and what they don’t know.

I said the standardized tests today are utterly useless because they provide no diagnostic information.

When my children were young, I never found out how they compared to other children. I got written reports from their teachers about their performance, where they were strong, and where they needed to work harder. I thought that was more than enough. Why are we so obsessed with comparing students in New York to students in other states? Do you care? If you do, there is NAEP, which gives you all the comparisons you need.

from novemoore


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