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

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Standardized tests versus grades

Sent to the South China Morning Post, Feb 18, 2016

Lovelyn Wong ("Assessment serves useful purpose," Feb 15) advises parents not to  be too hasty in calling for an end to the Primary Three-Territory Wide System Assessment. Ms.Wong argues that tests help reveal students' weaknesses and help teachers improve their instruction.

This argument has been used to justify increased testing in the United States as well. There is no evidence that it is true; in fact studies done at the secondary school level comparing grades teachers give students and standardized tests show that grades are an excellent predictor of future academic success, and standardized tests do not add additional information. 

There are, in addition,  plausible reasons to think that teacher evaluation of students is better than standardized tests. The repeated judgments of professionals who are with students every day is probably more valid than a test created by distant strangers and given only once.

Moreover, teacher evaluations of students are “multiple measures," done by different teachers in different years, are closely aligned to the curriculum, and cover all subjects.

Arguments for giving students a standardized test must be accompanied by evidence showing that they do a better job than grades alone.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original letter:

Assessment serves useful purpose
Fewer primary schools will be subject to the Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment test.
This has been done in order to deal with the anger felt by ­parents and the pressure pupils face from the TSA.
One of the problems faced by students connected with the TSA test is that they are forced to do too much drilling.
Schools do this because heads feel the schools themselves are being tested and so they want children to ­improve their scores. The ­Education Bureau has tried to allay these concerns by saying only students’ standards will be tested.
Another criticism has been that in the past the test questions were too difficult. I am glad to learn that this is being dealt with and the questions will be modified. If it is still felt the bureau is still putting too much pressure on pupils and teachers, it must make whatever modifications are necessary.
Despite the bureau’s adjustments, many parents still want to see the TSA abolished, ­however, I do not think there is a need to do so.
The assessment has its value as it can judge students’ levels. And this gives teachers clues about how to improve their teaching methods based on whatever weaknesses the ­students had. If it is scrapped, ­officials will probably come up with another assessment mechanism and it will have its own problems.
I hope the bureau decides not to cancel the assessment.
Lovelyn Wong, Tsing Yi

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