Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Testing Limits

Testing the Limits - by Marjorie Ingall; Tablet Magazine
This is an interesting article about standardized testing. Given that our children are now in the thick of taking standardized test the author's thoughts should give us pause. Is there a correlation between improved teaching and standardized tests as politicians argue? I think not. I have always found these troubles. How can one objectify learning. Does a 5 mean you have learned more? Does an 800 mean you are a better writer? Such scores are pyrrhic victories. The notion that all students, especially young fourth graders, can be placed on the same level and evaluated by objective measures is impossible.

Ingall writes as well about what should be our communal concern:
As Jews, we dig community. Al tifrosh min hatzibur, we’re told: Do not separate yourself from the community. Our prayers are written overwhelmingly in the first person plural. But standardized testing is the furthest thing from communitarian. Wealthy families buy tutoring. Upper-middle-class kids come into school with the huge advantage of being read to more often at home. Testing enforces existing divisions and even increases them. And being Jewish means you shouldn’t just worry about your kids; you should be concerned about everyone’s kids. That means working to improve all schools—yes, even if your kid goes to Jewish Day School—in meaningful ways, because that’s part of the responsibility of living in a democracy.
The increasing attempt to reduce to numbers what is a subjective endeavor is a doomed enterprise. Teaching can never be quantified. It is an art. It can only be measured in the transformation of a student's soul.

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