This video has been floating around Twitter lately. Its a few years old, but reminds me of how important it is to revisit the idea of mastery each day in our classrooms and with our students. A lot of our kids struggle with this idea of mastery. It requires reflection, evaluation, revision, transfer of skills and knowledge, and an authentic performance. Some students just want us to tell them the answer and sometimes that is easier for a teacher to do. But, the struggle that comes from extended exposure and repeated interaction with the goal of a meeting a high standard is worthy. The benefits can’t be measured by a traditional assessment.
I am always shocked at our testing culture. Frederick J. Kelly is considered the father of the multiple choice test. He believed in standardization and created this timed, objective uniform test meant to increase efficiency. Think assembly line, industrial revolution. It put little emphasis on higher order skills. Teachers didn’t have to read through responses Towards the end of his life Kelly’s mindset had changed and he was quoted as saying it was a “test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.”
And, yet, here we are over 100 years later using this low order thinking test to assess, rank, and decide the futures of our students.
This article came through my email this morning and it made me cringe. I thought by 2016 we would be moving away from uniformity and ranking. Rows of students proving “performance” in rows of desks in a sterile environment. The author of the article interviewed a veteran proctor for SAT, a man who has been administering the test for 53 years. Robert Rorison says:
“I saw the SAT as part of the basic process of getting into college. I took the SAT in 1949—ancient history. Then I administered it for 53 years. My children took the SAT to go to college. My grandchildren took the SAT to go to college. It’s, to me, the standard entry point to enter the university.”
The fact that the test was around in 1949 and is still being used doesn’t sell the efficacy or need for SAT. Why are we using an antiquated method? I know test makers continually attempt to update the test, adding in an essay portion and increasing the level of questioning techniques. But, at its base it is the same test. The same test for different students. And, its a money making machine.
Rorison also talks about what he has done to prevent cheating on the SAT and how in adult life people have to take tests so they might as well get used to it.
In the real world, we work in groups. We collaborate to solve problems. We call on the collective knowledge of those around us. We use resources to find answers. It makes us better and I don’t consider that cheating!
Also, I know this is shocking, but since graduation from college I have taken one test, my National Board Certification test. One! And guess what? It was mostly writing.
My only hope as a parent and an educator is that one day we wake up and ask more than standardization of our students. In my heart I hope SAT is gone by the time my son is in high school. I tell him everyday that test scores don’t matter. In my mind, they don’t. Most tests don’t truly tell me what my son has struggled with, what he has mastered, what he has learned through that struggle. I also believe they give me zero indication of his ability for success. I can’t even remember my SAT score or any other test score and I like it that way.
A girl can dream right?