Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tidy test scores not true indicators of real learning

My letter to the editor appeared in the Edmonton Journal:

Our new Premier Alison Redford has committed to ending Grade 3 and 6 provincial achievement exams while offering “regular but sensitive measurements of academic performance and expected outcomes.”

The case against standardized testing goes something like this: It’s not that standardized test scores don’t tell us anything. A child’s test score is a reliable and accurate way of assessing the size of the houses near a school. This means that too many tests are reporting on what children bring to school and not necessarily what they learn at school.

It’s also important to note that a correct answer on a test does not necessarily signal understanding, and a wrong answer does not necessarily signal an absence of understanding. Real learning is really messy. Standardized tests are nothing if not tidy. See the problem?

The bane of reducing learning to a test score is that it inevitably overvalues whatever can be quantified and undervalues what cannot.

This is why any attempt to reduce learning to numbers is at best unhelpful and at worst harmful, and anyone who calls the process of reducing the messiness of teaching and learning to a tidy test score a "public service" is neglectfully ignorant, willfully blind or outright lying.

Ultimately, accountability should be about transparency. That is, people should be privy to the information they need to get a feel for the quality of their schools.

Because standardized testing conceals far more than it reveals, it cannot tell us what we need to know about our schools, which provides Alison Redford with all the mandate she needs to rightfully do away with the grade 3 and 6 Provincial Achievement Tests.

1 comment:

  1. An excellent letter!



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