"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, December 25, 2006

Why Do We Measure?

A thoughtful piece in WaPo this morning on the tectonic shift from test factory high schools to university. Of course, if Spellings and the corporationists have their way, that shift will become a non-shift, just as sense will become nonsense:
By Susan Kinzie

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 25, 2006; B01

By the end of last year, Elizabeth Fleming had taken the SAT, the PSAT, four AP exams and seven IB exams. At Richard Montgomery High School, her classmates agonized over the scores they needed to get into a good college, and the entire jittery month of May was spent cramming for exams.

This year, she got a culture shock.

Fleming enrolled at St. John's College, a tiny liberal arts school in Annapolis where scores are irrelevant: no exams to speak of, and no grades unless students request them.

She went from one extreme to another. In a country where "benchmarking" and "high-stakes testing" continue to be buzzwords, many Washington area high schools stand out for their competitiveness, their emphasis on testing and the stress students feel to get good numbers. "It escalates every year," independent college counselor Shirley Bloomquist said.

College is a change for most students, a shift from memorization to analysis, from weekly did-you-do-the-homework quizzes to weighty final papers. "In this era of No Child Left Behind, these students that will be coming to college are tested within an inch of their lives so regularly and so intensely," said John Bader, associate dean for academic programs and advising at Johns Hopkins University, who is co-writing a book on admissions and success.

Some college departments, such as political science, do not give college credit for AP scores, because the tests are mostly multiple choice. In many college courses, Bader said, "Most of what you learn is that there is no clear answer. There is no right or wrong. Yet when you test all the time, you're of course suggesting there is." . . . .

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