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Bitter Lessons from Chasing Better Tests

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"ó Once we make any test sacred, that test replaces the larger and more authentic goals of school. Instead of reading, students take test-prep to be tested on reading; instead of writing, students take test-prep to be tested on writing. . .and the list goes on. Testing and teaching to a test are always asking less of our students.

Correlations, validity, and reliability are powerful in the world of statistics, and they sound impressive when we call for making our schools more rigorous. But in the end, teaching and learning are human endeavors that are messy, chaotic, and nearly impossible to reduce to simple measurements.

Calls for better tests are merely digging a deep hole even deeper. The solution to better schools is not better tests but challenge students to read, write, and think for hours each day throughout the school year, never lifting their heads or pencils to get ready for a test.

But we must place a more challenging school day--one not concerned with tests--within a social commitment to the lives of children outside of school as well. Hungry children care little about tests or reading.

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An Associate Professor of Education at Furman University since 2002, Dr. P. L. Thomas taught high school English for 18 years at Woodruff High along with teaching as an adjunct at a number of Upstate colleges. He holds an undergraduate degree in (more...)
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