Re: We're Not on the Same page Afterall...
- Subject: Re: We're Not on the Same page Afterall...
- From: James Powell <powell@NS.NET>
- Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 21:09:26 -0700
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
I must insist that there definitely are questions. One of them is that the
public wants to know how good the schools are. We as educators have responded
that standardized tests provide the answer. Parents want to know how well their
children do in school. We have responded standardized tests answer that
question. Now our monster has turned and is biting us. I don't see how we can
avoid answering these and other questions, but we just don't have an effective,
acceptable way to do that, so we cling to the dog that is biting us. Also, I
would be interested in how many of us on the list make our living directly or
indirectly from standardized testing. I don't say that is a bad thing. However,
I do believe it influences how strongly we defend the status quo and how openly
we are looking for effective alternatives ways to answer legitimate questions. I
don't think the public will tolerate " ...an opening of terrain for
exploration." Forgive me if I rant.
Ellen Schwartz wrote:
> >In a message dated 10/14/98 5:56:21 PM Pacific Daylight Time, powell@NS.NET
> >(Jim Powell) writes:
> >I suggest that those of us who are really interested in doing something
> >about standardized testing begin by listing all of the uses that are made of
> >standardized tests and of the test results. I am trying to get at the
> >question of, if standardized tests are an answer, what are the questions?
> I'm not sure that there are questions. Questions to me imply an opening of
> terrain for exploration, and I don't think standardized tests do that. I
> do, however, think there are intentions. It seems to me that standardized
> testing have two main intentions: 1) to sift and sort and 2) to promulgate
> a given standard as "objective" or generally agreed upon.
> Under sifting and sorting, I would include all those uses of testing which
> separate kids, "red-flag" or code them, gain them or deny them entrance to
> some program or institution, along with the tests that do the same sorts of
> things for adults. For example: pre-school or kindergarten screening,
> special ed/Chapter I/gifted & talented testing, private school entrance
> exams, college entrance exams, civil service tests, teacher tests, bar
> exams. Any uses which rank test-takers, teachers, school districts,
> colleges, etc. are also an example of this, in that ranking is a kind of
> The second intention, it seems to me, applies to *all* standardized tests,
> including those which include essay portions and "open-ended" questions.
> All these tests are scored against some standard. The standards are (like
> all standards) based in values: someone's idea of what matters. But this
> is not stated upfront, so the public perception (and the perception of many
> teachers) is that these standards are in some magic way "true," rather than
> someone's *opinion* of what is important (hence open to discussion,
> disagreement, debate).
> Both these intentions concern me, but the second one especially, because it
> so easily becomes invisible. I teach in Mass., where there is a frenzy at
> the moment to "align" curriculum to the state frameworks and, ultimately,
> to the state tests. The effect is to shut down rather than open up inquiry
> into the range of standards one might hold within a discipline (or about
> learning more generally) and what values those are based in. The Social
> Studies framework has been a particular hot potato, in part because of its
> radical overhaul from the draft to the final framework (and the politics
> around this), but I think also because the values are perhaps easiest to
> see in history. It seems to me that an honest way to teach history is to
> acknowledge and explore with students the idea that history is a kind of
> story and that historians take different views on what's important, whose
> stories/versions are worth preserving, and how they get passed down (I know
> this is over-simplified). But the framework leaves no room for this,
> because it has already selected a standard and if kids do poorly on the
> test the interpretation is that they don't "know" enough social studies (as
> though there were just one meaning for "knowing" social studies). The same
> could be said for any standardized test, I just chose this example because
> it seems in its glaringness to highlight what I'm trying to say.
> One of my concerns about teaching to the test, even in its seemingly benign
> or well-intended forms is that it tends to skip over the question of
> values. And if the question isn't raised, we are complicit in supporting
> the myth that standards can ever be other than value-based and subjective.
> Ellen Schwartz
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