Well, Dr. Ravitch--here is a concise answer to what puzzles you, more succinct than I could ever say it myself:
Re “Students Gain Only Marginally on Test of U.S. History” (news article, May 17): The idea of a “test” has again hijacked the public debate on education. Because of No Child Left Behind and overzealous states and cities, curriculum and teaching in English and math classrooms have been reduced to test prep, tests, test scoring and test review.
Are multiple-choice tests what we want for the teaching of history? Shouldn’t we clamor instead for policies that support in-depth inquiry, use of multiple sources and rigorous analysis of historical evidence?
In a letter signed by two dozen leading historians, Eric Foner, the Columbia University professor and past president of the American Historical Association, argues: “The use of such testing as a primary assessment tool ... de-emphasizes the analytical reading, writing, and thinking abilities required by the discipline ... Students may not learn to make informed judgments central to the interpretation and understanding of history.”
Testing has become the problem, not the solution.
New York, May 18, 2007
The writers are, respectively, co-chairwoman of the New York Performance Standards Consortium and director of the Center for Inquiry in Teaching and Learning.