In January, Thomas Friedman wrote:In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap … Continue reading "And All the Pundits Are Below Average"
High-stakes reading comprehension exams, at least one that I know of, for high-school students give line references pointing to the source for the correct answers to each question. It is possible to get a perfect score without ever having read the passage--just having used the cues. What, then, is being assessed? Certainly not ability to … Continue reading Just What Are We Assessing? (Sigh)
Mark Naison, a tireless proponent of common sense in education and politics, has reminded me of the Orwellian aspects of "Data Driven Instruction." He writes:Anyone who thinks this approach is going to improve the quality of instruction, and create better relationships between teachers, students and parents, is sorely mistaken. It will increase the stress level … Continue reading "Data Driven Instruction"
Standardized testing is based on a number of assumptions, including that knowledge can be broken down into identifiable bits of absolute, unchanging information—and that education is mastery of such bits. This is nonsense, of course, and has been understood to be nonsense for eons. As Paulo Freire writes, it is an ‘imprisoning of reality,’ pretending … Continue reading Testing Can Never Suffice (How Many Times Must We Say It?)
The other day, I gave my Advanced Technical Writing students a quiz. One question: "Name three things you should do before starting any research project."The answers weren't in their text. I had not told them what these things should be in prior classes. In fact, the question had not come up--which is one reason I … Continue reading Testing and the Wisdom of Crowds
What follows is the paper I presented last Friday at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Atlanta as part of the panel "Reclaiming Our Spaces: Accessibility and the Public University. The other papers on the panel were by Rachel Rigolino and Susan Naomi Bernstein. Before March 16, I had a perfectly fine presentation … Continue reading Lying for Fun and Profit
The very idea of standards is backward looking--even when standards are necessary. It cannot be otherwise: It's impossible to measure the future, and standards are based on measurement; that is, they can take advantage only of the things that can be measured—things that are, not things that might be. Speculation cannot be utilized, for it … Continue reading The Wrong Standards
There's only one thing wrong with testing—and that is that testing alone cannot improve education.It's that simple, really. And we've all heard it said. Yet it seems to be the one thing that Shael Polakow-Suransky, soon to be Cathie Black's number two in the New York City School system, doesn't understand. Yes, better testing improves … Continue reading Make Motivation First
Writing more than fifty years ago, the historian and cultural critic Jacques Barzun commented upon the multiple-choice test:Taking an objective test is simply pointing. It calls for the least effort of mind above that of keeping awake: recognition. And it is recognition without a shock, for to a veteran of twelve years old, the traditional … Continue reading Education: The Circle Game