from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Anna Quindlen on testing - worth the read 

I don’t have much time to blog, but Anna Quindlen’s piece in the latest Newsweek is worth the price of the issue. I did not find it on their website, so you may have to read it in hard copy. It is entitled “None of the Above.” None.” and was inspired by the recent presidential commission that was recommending the possibility of using standardized tests in college to gauge the level of learning.

I will, without further comment, offer a few snippets. Bear with me, as I must
(a) type them out
(b) abide by fair use
(c) not violate copyright
(d) give you enough to whet your appetite
(e) all of the above

Thinking about her own children, now in college she notes
For what seemed like the first time since they turned 4, they were ale to forget about filling in those little bubbles and swap their No. 2 pencils for paintbrushes, props, ancient prose and modern experimental poetry. And Parties. Well, never mind that part.

Then I realized I was thinking small, and so were the feds. Through their No Child Left Untested initiative, they’d managed to metastasize school testing so that it was everywhere, from the early grades through high school Why stop there? Why stop at all?

You there, with the plumber’s van! Which of the wrenches pictured here is really best for removing this piece of pipe? Wait, not the one that would do a pretty decent job if you held it the right way! The very best one as determined by a government panel of plumbing experts. And don’t peek over the shoulder of that guy next to you. He’s doing the heating-an-cooling achievement test. That’s an entirely different thing.

That one extended snip should give you a sense.

Here’s another:
And don’t think you babies are off the the hook. For years you’ve gotten away with nothing more taxing than that Apgar test at birth, which measures stuff like muscle tone and respiration. Anyone can breathe! Keep an eye on that mobile over the crib. Track it .. track it ... yes! It looks as if there may be an excellent preschool in your future if you can pass the AP potty test by the time you’re 3.

A shorter part of a snip:
The presidential commission is allegedly concerned about analytical skills, although one of its members runs a big test-prep company, which my analytical skills tell me means he has a vested interest in more testing.

She applies the standards of standardized testing to both the Congress and the president. Here’s the former:
A few ground rules for standardized testing for member of the House and Senate” test-prep fees cannot be paid by lobbyists. No one can accompany the legislator into the testing room -- no press secretaries, no aides, no special assistants in charge of health-care policy. Health-care policy won’t be on the test anyhow because there are no clear answer to any question. There will, however, be a math portion for those legislators who think you can increase spending, cut taxes and yet still bring down the deficit. They’ll be able to use their calculators. Their magic calculators.

The passage on the presidency revolves around the famous quote by Franklin about giving up a little liberty to get safety deserving neither and asking the president to discuss in terms of his own policies, foreign or domestic.

I will end with the entire final paragraph. Trust me, I have stayed (barely) within fair use, and I do urge you to read the entire piece.
Thinks of all the job creation going on here: test writers, test monitors, test graders. And what about the underlying lesson being learned, that it doesn’t matter if you really resonate to knowledge, only if you can manage to spit it back over the course of a single, long, tedious session? That should be useful in much of the work world. Naturally, the commission must be tested as well, perhaps with this short essay question: “In recent years learning is said to be plummeting while at the same time the use of standardized testing is sky-rocketing. What’s the point? Discuss.”

Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed!
Email accepted at "kber at earthlink dot net"
Preface email messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?