“How’ d you do on the test?” American students ask that question more often than students anywhere else in the world….because we give our students more tests than anyone else.
Teacher-made tests, district tests, state tests, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the PSAT, the SAT, the ACT… the list of tests our children take in public schools goes on and on and on.
Some students are tested more than others. Kids in the inner city generally take more standardized, multiple-choice tests than their peers in the suburbs. Since they frequently score lower on these exams, more testing doesn’t necessarily produce more learning.
We test to measure intelligence and achievement. We also test students to make judgments about their schools and their teachers.
The most appropriate use of testing is for diagnosis: to understand weaknesses and correct them. However, we also use test results in many other ways: to select or eliminate students from programs and schools; to label (”she’s gifted, and he’s not”); to distribute rewards (college admission, for example), and to hold schools accountable.
Two conflicting trends are apparent today. On the one hand, many forces are urging more tests, specifically national exams in reading and math. Leading the call is the President of the United States. manuals
Others, however, are trying to develop alternatives to standardized, multiple-choice tests. They favor “Exhibitions,”which are public presentations by students,and “Portfolios,” which are collections of a student’s best work. When done correctly, these approaches teach even as they evaluate.
Do we need more tests? With all the testing schools already do, perhaps if they did a better job with the information that’s already available, we wouldn’t need to spend more time (and money) on more tests.
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