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Bitter Lessons from Chasing Better Tests

By       Message Paul Thomas       (Page 1 of 5 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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In a New York Times Op-Ed (22 March 2009), E. D. Hirsch Jr. argued, "We do not need to abandon either the principle of accountability or the fill-in-the-bubble format. Rather we need to move from teaching to the test to tests that are worth teaching to." This refrain parallels the contradictory messages coming from the Obama administration that claims supporting a change to the culture of testing in NCLB, but then argues for better testing.

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Secretary of Education Duncan, in a speech about NCLB reauthorization (24 September 2009), acknowledged concerns about testing, but immediately took the same position as Hirsch: "Until states develop better assessments--which we will support and fund through Race to the Top--we must rely on standardized tests to monitor progress--but this is an important area for reform and an important conversation to have."

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A better test is all we need?

Nothing could be further from the truth. We have been searching for the perfect test for a century now in education, and that has led us to the "reliability" and "validity" traps. In other words, technically Hirsch is right, but authentically, a test will never be anything more than a pale reflection of what any student knows.

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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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