"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How Much Time Should Be Devoted to Standardized Tests

A typical chemistry major would spend close to a total of 1000 hours of lectures and laboratory work in various chemistry courses. At the end, if the student desires to pursue graduate studies in chemistry, he or she may take the standardized Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in chemistry which takes about two hours and fifty minutes. The GRE chemistry exam is less than 0.3 percent of the total time spent on chemistry courses. In stark contrast, elementary and high school students in the United States spend nearly ten times more on standardized tests.

It is thus promising to hear the president of the United States proposing to limit the amount of standardized tests in basic education.

Above copied from the Associated Press
The call from President Obama comes after the Council of the Great City Schools has released its report, Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools:An Inventory and Preliminary Analysis.

What is disheartening after a closer look is the specific call made by President Obama: "...capping standardized testing at 2 percent of classroom time...." This cap is no different from the amount of time the report has found for eight grade students:

Above figure copied from
Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools:An Inventory and Preliminary Analysis

Capping standardized testing at 2 percent therefore does no more than lip service. It ignores one of the major findings in the report:


Above figure copied from
Student Testing in America’s Great City Schools:An Inventory and Preliminary Analysis

It likewise ignores one of the recommendations made by the report:


The problem with standardized tests is not really the time that students spend on these exams. The real problem lies in the high stakes' nature of these exams. When salaries of teachers and promotions of students depend on these exams, the classroom becomes simply a training ground for these tests. Assessments are necessary to guide instruction. Standardized tests are useful for comparisons but these should never be the measuring stick for the performance of a teacher and an individual student's learning outcomes.









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