Re: Reforming Education

Dan Fabulich (
Wed, 6 Oct 1999 20:31:19 -0400 (EDT)

'What is your name?' 'Lee Daniel Crocker.' 'IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!!':

> I don't buy that argument at all: first, nothing prevents teachers from
> doing any kind of testing or evaluation they want at any time.

This claim is false. Teachers cannot force students to take tests AT ALL. If students have no incentive to take the tests, then students simply won't show up on test day, or if they do show up, they will not have bothered to study.

> The fact that such tests "don't count" should make them more honest
> evaluations because the student feels no economic pressure to cheat on
> them.

No pressure to cheat on those tests, yes. Or study for them. Or show up to them. What good are the tests at that point?

> The credentialing authority's reputation and the value of their service
> will depend on how useful their evaluations are, so they have incentive
> to do a good job of testing real understanding of the subject. As for
> whether or not a student has "worked" during the year, well "who cares"
> is precisely the correct response here. Fuck effort, results matter.

I'm fine with saying "fuck effort." I'm not saying that effort is somehow an integral part of learning. The problem here is with cramming. A test can only show that you know the material on the test day; it has no ability to determine whether you know the material a month later. When students cram, they take large quantities of information and put it into short term memory. Students who cram still pass their tests, and often do quite well, but shortly thereafter they forget the material. On the other hand, if you've been studying/using/recalling the material over a long period of time, then you'll be more likely to remember it for a long time to come. Moreover, repeated testing is more likely to even out statistical flukes, in both directions, thereby making the test an even MORE accurate measure of the student's abilities.

A single comprehensive test is a bad measurement of long term knowledge of the material. Even a testing schedule which requires one to pass twelve comprehensive exams every month over the course of a year would be better suited than a single exam, but, frankly, the more often testing occurs, the more incentives the student has to put the material into long term memory, and the more accurate testing becomes.

Here's where the teacher comes in. When the teacher can call upon a student at any time and require the student to answer a question about the material, the student is given an incentive to know the material *all the time*. Being placed in a situation like this for about a year increases the incentives to store information in long term memory even MORE. Note that it doesn't demand constant STUDY; fuck study. It demands constant KNOWLEDGE of the material. If that requires study, so be it.

Examining the students daily is an extremely effective way to provide incentives and evaluate the student. So what's the counter argument? That teachers will teach badly and give out good credentials anyway? This provides only an argument for comprehensive objective standardized testing IN ADDITION TO teacher's evaluations of individual students, not as a replacement for the current system.

Teacher's evaluations IN ADDITION TO third-party standardized testing is SUCH a good idea, that this very system is EXACTLY what we have in place NOW in high schools all across the country with the SATs, SAT II achievements and Advance Placement testing, all run by a (generally) well respected private organization, the College Board. Colleges then look at both the student's grades, being given out by teachers, as well as the results from the standardized tests administered by the College Board.

Ain't capitalism grand? :)


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