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

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Last Straw, Again

From the Seattle Times:

Cathy Beyer just gave her students the complete opposite of a standardized test.

Her test lasted seven years. She tracked 304 University of Washington students all the way through college. She reviewed coursework. Interviewed them repeatedly about what they learned. Had them write essays to assess their critical thinking. The result is a 428-page book called "Inside the Undergraduate Experience."

Its main finding, not surprisingly, is that college-level learning is so rich, individualized and colored by the various disciplines that there's nothing standard about it.

"We didn't set out to say anything about standardized testing," says Beyer, a researcher in the UW's Office of Educational Assessment.

"But you immerse yourself for seven years in what students learn and how they learn it, and it becomes crystal clear that giving them a centralized, standardized test would be utterly meaningless."

Yet that is exactly what we seem on the verge of doing.

A federal commission has recommended testing for college freshmen and seniors, as a way of colleges proving their worth to the public. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education said it might start withholding financial aid unless colleges show results through measures like testing or how many grads get jobs.

This is the last straw for me. Our mania for standardized testing is out of control. . . .

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