Standardized testing rewards standardized thinking, excludes soft skills

Standardized testing rewards standardized thinking, while excluding creativity, resilience & other “soft” skills. I have started gong out of my way to remind students in my classes that I am not comparing their papers to a “correct answer” in the back of my book — I want them to learn a habit of mind that enables them to ask and investigate their own questions. There is no book of correct answers out in the real world.

Google announced last week that they are no longer taking into account job candidates’ test scores and grades, because they found no relationship between those measures and performance on the job. This buzz around a new focus to affect student success is supported by some of Gallup’s best research, for example, that the three constructs of hope, engagement and wellbeing account for as much as one-third of the variance in student success. Yet our nation’s school are not paying attention to these kinds of things. What we’re starting to learn is that “soft skills” and “social-emotional” learning are pretty important. There’s a case that the “soft stuff” may be the best measures of all.

The biggest problem with standardized testing is that it seeks standardized answers. We’re not just overinvesting in standardized testing, we’re actually testing standardization. That is to say, most standardized tests are designed to have students come up with the same answers. We’re teaching them how to be similar, not different. And although we need to test certain competencies and intelligence, it is becoming quite clear that there are many kinds of competencies and many forms of intelligence that we are not picking up on with our current testing approaches. —Brandon Busteed

While he does a good job framing the problem, I am not sure that trusting Busteed’s company to solve the problem for us is a sensible response. Were he a student in one of my classes, I’d ask him to revise the normative phrasing in passages like this:

[W]e need to stop worrying about how America stacks up on PISA scores compared with other countries. Parents need to stop obsessing over their kids’ performance on tests and the grades they get. Teachers need to stop teaching to the test. And our educational leaders need to push into new frontiers where they can measure (and espouse) more of what matters the most.

Rather than a string of assertions that appeal to ethos, I’d rather read some solid benefits that come from the solution he proposes. (His solution seems to say “trust me!” rather than “Action X will lead to result Y, which can be measured by P and Q.”

Reblogging to remind myself: a retiring high shcool teacher warns college professors.

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