A backlash against the anti-testing backlash

No single topic has generated more heat on this blog than standardized testing. So in honor of a long weekend, let me throw out some red meat for testing opponents to chew on: “The Four Biggest Myths of the Anti-Testing Backlash,” by Fordham Institute analyst Kathleen Porter-Magee.

The myths, in order, are:

1) Teachers’ instincts should guide instruction.

2) Testing is responsible for “drill and kill” instruction.

3) Tests can’t measure what really matters.

4) Standardization doesn’t work.

Well, that’s not pulling any punches. Most of these arguments aren’t new, but I was intrigued by one bit of data included in the article:

Plenty of research suggests that, if teachers really want to improve student performance on standardized tests, they would be wise to embrace engaging pedagogy and intellectually challenging content rather than test prep. All else being equal, the students who typically fare better on state tests are those whose teachers focus not on empty test-taking tricks but rather on content-rich and intellectually engaging curriculum. Ironically, a position paper focused on “debunking” standardized tests that was released by the Chicago Teachers Union this week showed that students whose teachers focused more on test prep than on content scored lower on the ACT test than did their peers. These findings echo the results of a 2001 study from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Regardless of socioeconomic background, “students who received assignments requiring more challenging intellectual work” achieved greater gains on standardized tests.

This seems plausible to me, and suggests – yet again – that would-be education reformers should focus more attention on how to recruit more talented people into the teaching profession.

Here’s a link to the full article:

http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-weekly/#the-four-biggest-myths-of-the-anti-testing-backlash.html

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