From the “Local South Metro” section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 17, 2009
Buy books instead of tests
In considering spending for education let's all take a good look at the high cost of testing. As an example, let's assume that each test taken by each student costs their district $30. If a district has 20,000 students, that is a cost of $600,000. What really is the best way to impact learning with that $600,000? Is testing students, compiling scores and reporting scores to the state the best way to enhance student learning? Would students be better served if the district spent that money on textbooks, providing a $30 textbook for each student to use all year? If that 20,000-student district were allowed to reduce the number of tests by half for one year, there would be a savings of $300,000. Following our example, if a district has 1,000 students, the cost of testing would be $30,000. If the district were not required to spend $30,000 on testing that money could support an additional staff member in the classroom. What are students getting for our thousands of dollars of testing? Would we impact student learning more by providing textbooks instead of tests? What do you want for your child, a textbook or a test?
KATHERINE KOCH-LAVEEN, ROSEMOUNT
The writer is a chemistry teacher at Apple Valley High School.
I want a nation of citizens who are less inclined to think that the “truth” can be captured in one of four feasible answers—a,b,c, or d. I mention “feasible” because in constructing such tests it is crucial not to have one “right” and three absurd alternatives. They are designed to produce differentiated responses. There’s a peculiar science/logic to this arrangement. On both IQ/ability and traditional achievement tests we’re promised ahead of time a population that fits a normal curve. We’ve replaced these in K-12 schools with judgments about benchmarks, which must still rest on a numerical rank order based on a, b, c, d. The big new invention is that there is often no technical back-up for the validity or reliability of such exams. Many big-name psychometricians shun them.
from "We Need Schools That 'Train" Our Judgment" by Deborah Meier on Bridging Differences
From First Grade Takes a Test by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
Someone in the Obama administration said that crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Might our current crisis in education and educational funding be an opportunity to look hard at the value received for the money spent on standardized testing?
I am enjoying and learning a lot from Sir Ken Robinson's book The Element. It's one of those books that every politician, parent and educator should read, but sadly few will. Book report soon.