Links to make you think and smile

To make you think:

There’s a concept called reverse design that is critical,” he said. “We are violating that with our test. Instead of connecting what we learn in school with being successful in the real world, we are doing it in reverse. We are testing first and then kids go into the real world. Whether the information they have learned is important or not becomes secondary. If you really did a study on what math most kids need, I guarantee you could probably dump about 80 percent of math scores and leave high-level math for the kids who want it and will need it. 

from Valerie Strauss’s education blog, The Answer Sheet, 12/6/11

This was actually the follow-up to the previous day’s post which was about an unnamed school board member who took his state’s required standardized test and flunked them. In the post on Tuesday, Strauss interviews the man who agrees to be identified and discusses a bit more the implications of a successful adult failing a test that is used to determine whether or not high-schoolers can graduate. Strauss is the  anti-testing counterpart to fellow Washington Post education columnist Jay Matthews, a vocal advocate of testing and reform, and she predictably uses this story as an example of why standardized testing doesn’t work.

I’m not a huge proponent of standardized testing. I think they have their uses but I live in a state where way too much emphasis is placed on them from an early age. I also think they should be only one of many factors used for teacher or school evaluations. And from reading the article it sounds like there may be some serious issues with this particular test.

But what bothered me about this column was the idea (again) that we should learn only because it is useful. I don’t use the Calculus I learned in high school. I remember very little of the French I took. I read a lot of books in English classes in college that aren’t really useful to my career. But I like to think that the process of learning itself is useful. We learn for the sake of learning. Some of the information sticks. Some doesn’t. But it doesn’t make the process less valuable.

And to make you smile:

Bethlehemian Rhapsody


2 thoughts on “Links to make you think and smile

  1. I (grandma) am not much of a thinker, but in my humble opinion, TESTS are the root of what is wrong with American education.

    Thanks for the Bethlehemian Rhapsody. Made me smile to remember the REAL reason for Christmas !

  2. I agree completely with you here and had the same objections to this line of critique (just didn’t manage to blog about it yet!). There is a lot to criticize in the regime of high-stakes testing, but I don’t find the argument about utility at all compelling. We teach math, French, old literature, etc. not because the subject content will necessarily be useful to children when they grow up (although we should be careful about assuming we know what knowledge will be useful in 20 years) but because the deep learning in such subjects provides us with important mental/intellectual training that absolutely will be useful. In other words, it is the process, not the material itself, that has long-term utility.

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