Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Random Testing?

Is that the key to improved education? Robert Pondiscio suggests it may be, in the NY Sun. Perhaps if no one knows who will be tested, teachers will focus on giving everyone a well-rounded education. It's an idea worth considering, in that if we don''t know precisely what or who will be tested, we'll simply have to prepare everyone to do the best they can--which is really our job.

Mr. Pondiscio also makes an excellent point about kids who don't merit promotion moving ahead simply because they passed a single test. As an ESL teacher, I'm frustrated by kids who test out, despite being far below what I'd consider proficient in basic written or verbal English. This suggests another problem with testing, random or otherwise--the tests must be well-written and on target. I've seen many professionally prepared tests that fall well short of these modest goals.

When testing comes up, I keep falling back on the tried and true--good teachers, reasonable class size, and decent facilities. I trust good teachers to prepare good tests. I trust them to assess kids (mine included) more than, for example, the NY State Board of Regents. The city scoffs at class size reduction, but it's clear a teacher with 25 kids has more time to help kids than one with 34. And sending kids into buildings at 250% capacity sends a message, in no uncertain terms, about how much the city values their education.

The city has chosen to ignore the most important factors in education, opting for gimmicks, scapegoating, and sleight of hand (most egregiously, the manipulation of test scores) to avoid biting the bullet and paying for quality. I'm afraid we will not make the sort of gains kids need until this 30+ year policy is reversed.
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