I’ve been in the distinct minority here regarding the efficacy of standardized testing. I for one grew up with such tests as part of my life, the classic fill-in-the-bubble and never was more anxious about those than any other test. As far back as elementary school we had once a year such tests which I believe were used for research purposes, but we were also told our own score. In high school we had PSATs and SATs and in my case several AP exams. We did cover material and practice skills likely to show up on the tests, but I never felt that we were being taught to the test. I stand by previous comments I have made on this matter, but the truth is in an ideal world we would be so confident that things were going swimmingly in schools and tests would not be needed to verify that. I would even go as far as wishing that core courses are so well done in high school that colleges would no longer find it necessary to require survey courses. That would have the added advantage of making a Bachelor’s degree one year less expensive. I’m confident my Catholic HS classmates could have passed an MCAS even out preparing for it. My evidence is that I voluntarily took a sample MCAS, not only passed, but could identify which HS class I learned the material covered by a given question.
There are certain basics that everyone should know just so they won’t be idiots quite frankly and I get tired of seeing surveys, some comparative to other nations, that say that x% can’t do a simple calculation or y% can’t recall a well-known historical fact. What I wonder though is if there is anything that can be done to improve natural learning, that is, knowledge gained just from being alive. Here’s a simple fact: George Washington was the first President of the United States. I assume that’s not news to anyone here, but I have no recollection of ever consciously learning that fact. Obviously I was not born knowing that, but as far as my memory is concerned, I have “always known”. So when I see surveys indicating that a certain percentage don’t know I want to scream, “You idiot! How did you miss that memo. Or take a more general skill like arithmetic. High schoolers should be doing algebra and possibly calculus, but how often do we see teenagers struggle to make change without help? It’s just subtraction for crying out loud! Even when I substitute teaching which I generally do no higher than sixth grade I’m asked by a student if a calculator could be used. No! No math expected of a sixth grader requires a calculator though I do know some still don’t know their times tables, which makes me wonder how the heck they passed fourth grade math. It just seems that there have to be some standards and a way to assess. I have seen suggestions for portfolios etc, or we could make them like the NY Regents, but what I’d really like to see is a way give children the opportunity and interest to pursue broader learning. After all, so much learning could and in my case did happen outside the classroom.