If Not Standardized Tests,
Review by Jonathan Pollard
A lot of
people will argue that we need standardized tests, if only
because we have no alternative method of measuring student achievement,
and making sure that all kids are getting a decent education. This
completely false. The only thing
that standardized tests do is promote competition and a winner/loser
environment by ranking one school, state, or student against another.
So how can parents be certain that their students are learning?
Kohn offers the following alternatives:
Parents could receive written descriptions of their child's
performance from the teacher.
• Parents could attend a conference with the teacher, or even
maintain regular communication.
• The most
skillful teachers don't rely very heavily on standardized
tests. They observe their
students, and communicate with them on a daily basis. Good
teachers can often tell, without using exams, how well a student is
understanding things. Parents might worry about whether or not a
teacher's personal and non-test oriented evaluation of his or her
students is accurate. But how can we assume that tests are any
assessments. These are opportunities for children to
actually do something; maybe the conducting of an experiment and the
presentation of its results, or even writing a play. Another
version of the performance assessment is the "portfolio." Students
can collect examples of work that they have done over the course of the
or over the course of multiple years.
These types of assessments are far better than standardized or
conventional tests at providing data about what students can do, and
areas where they might need additional help.
Not all parents think that tests are the best way of evaluating
their children's performance.
In a 1999 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll of the general public, respondents
were asked which of four methods would provide the most accurate measure
of a public school student's academic progress. Only 27% of the
respondents chose standardized test scores. Examples of the
students work was the first choice, receiving 33% of the votes.
The remainder of responses were split between letter grades and
we continue to use standardized tests, we should do as much as
possible to make them less damaging to
children. This includes making sure that tests aren't timed
and don't include multiple choice questions. It also includes
making sure that the results of such tests are not norm-referenced.
Test results should be considered in absolute terms, meaning with
reference to a given standard of achievement, rather than with
reference to the scores of other students. Additionally, reports
of test scores should be evaluated with consideration given to special
challenges faced by certain schools or districts: very low income
community, lack of resources, language barriers, etc. (Please see
section 1 for a more detailed explanation of the term
so frequently. We need to realize that tests - in the
traditional sense of the word - don't have to play such a huge role in
our schools. They can be used infrequently, as a means of
obtaining some basic, but limited, information.
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