Friday, April 9, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson takes on standardized tests

Standardized testing is destroying our education system. The kids are telling us by voting with their feet - drop out rates are anywhere from 30% to 50% in America. Sir Ken Robinson does a marvelous job of showing that at this point, we can no longer blame the kids. There is something inherently wrong with our education system.


  1. I think "testing" can be used effectively to help students learn, but educators just use them completely wrong. Whenever the tests are timed, scheduled, high-stakes, or used to give feedback to anyone but the student, they're harming learning, not helping.

    At a Montessori school I observed, tests and answer sheets were available to all students, so they could get a sense of where they are. During the "free work" period (which is about half the day), I saw a 6 or 7 year old girl give herself a couple math tests, just to judge where she was and to identify her weaknesses. The test wasn't the end, like in most classes. It was part of a continuing process to improve. And yes, tests are imperfect, but any student is aware of the pitfalls and can choose to ignore any results severely affected by them.

    The problem with standardized testing is it does EVERYTHING to harm learning. They're timed (so students get nervous), scheduled for a certain time (whether students are ready/healthy/awake/happy or not), high-stakes (so the point is to make no mistakes, not learn from mistakes - and now students are even more nervous), and the results are not used by students, nor by teachers, but by some outside arbiter who suddenly thinks they're aware of the quality of learning in that classroom.

  2. Sir Ken Robinson, Alfie Kohn, Daniel Pink, Carol S Dweck, Seth Godin, Howard Gardner,... just to name a few, are these little beacons of light that many of us educators latch on to. Unfortunately, they are not in positions of power (meaning "decision making" positions). Are there any forward/common sense thinking leaders in positions of power in education? Do you know of any educational decision makers that reference these types of thinkers? More importantly, are there any decision makers that do more than "reference" creativity, but rather try to actually allow for alternative educational styles?
    Just wondering what you and others think.

  3. To quote Seth Godin (via a previous post of Joe's):

    “Too many of us … in the field of education seem to have lost our capacity to be outraged by the outrageous; when handed foolish, destructive mandates, we respond by asking for guidance on how best to carry them out.”

    Every educator is in a position of power and indeed, has a responsibility to stand up for education they believe in (and stand up against any system that gets in the way of that). Joe, for example, has taken radical steps to ban grades and anything else he finds harmful to his students' love of learning - even if it may not be the "easiest" option and in fact, may alienate him from other educators who think more "traditionally." I think if we keep on waiting for change to happen from the top, we'll be waiting for a long time - we have to push from the trenches, where the learning actually happens.

  4. Chris, I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, you have inspired my next blog post for tomorrow morning.

    Thanks for sharing.

    I always look forward to reading every one of your comments.

  5. Very interesting posting and comments. I agree with you, Chris. Everybody – including learners – has a responsibility to participate in continuing to create the needed change in the way education is done.

  6. We should show this at csr. it's gold Jerry


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