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“Scientifically Tested Tests”

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“Scientifically Tested Tests” is an op-ed in todays New York Times by Susan Engel, who is the director of teaching at Williams College.

It says a number of good things critiquing standardized tests and makes some decent suggestions, including:

…children could write essays in response to a prompt like, “Choose something you are good at, and describe to your reader how you do it.” That would allow each student to draw on his area of expertise, show his ability to analyze the process, describe a task logically and convey real information and substance.

It also, though, includes some strange stuff, like:

…test [students] ability to identify the names of actual authors amid the names of non-authors. In other words, someone who knows that Mark Twain and J. K. Rowling are published authors — and that, say, Robert Sponge is not — reads more. We could periodically administer such a test to children to find out how much they have read as opposed to which isolated skills they have been practicing for a test.

The piece also only talks about tests as a tool to measure how effective a teacher or school is, and doesn’t even seem to allude to the importance of figuring out how to use assessments as a strategy to help teachers become better educators of their individual students (see The Best Resources For Learning About Formative Assessment and “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits”)

Even with these critiques, though, I have to say that it is nice to see something in the mainstream media offering a critique of standardized tests and providing at least some innovative thinking about potential alternatives.

What do you think of the column?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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