To be competitive in the global age in which we find ourselves, flexible, adaptable thinking must be the hallmark of student processes that are imbedded into lessons on a daily basis. Students must be able to develop unique, creative solutions to authentic problems as a result of their learning. This is the heart of Project Based or Problem Based learning. While there is underlying knowledge that can serve as a foundation for these types of experiences (and can be tested using selected response items), the emphasis should be on the application of knowledge in new and unrelated circumstances. The current generation of standardized accountability measures do not test for this type of learning, and has had the effect of diminishing students creative problem solving capacities. The new generation of assessments must emphasize authentic demonstrations of problem solving ability over students ability to pick the one right answer out of four in a test item bank. The world we live contains multiple pathways to arriving at satisfactory results. Why do we still insist on pigeonholing our kids by teaching them to always look for only one correct answer? The past 20 years of this emphasis has created a generation of students who are not divergent thinkers and who are dependent on others to tell them the correct answer. What is scary is that educational leaders have also been boxed in by the emphasis on testing. This recent article demonstrates the damage that the overemphasis on standardized tests has caused to school leaders:
Here are two quotes from the article (which are in direct competition with one another):
“What will happen is a shift to more authentic tests,” Axner said. “We’ll get away from more standardized tests that don’t allow our kids to think.” (This is a reference to the new PARCC assessments that will measure the common core in Ohio)
Then, there is this:
But secondly, the plan is instead of the district waiting 60 days for the results, you’ll have the student results within 60 seconds. … That will improve the ability to provide intervention and remediation.” (The only types of items that you get this type of instant feedback from are selected response items)
Mr. Axner espouses getting away from standardized testing, but in the VERY SAME ARTICLE speaks of the benefits of standardized testing. (If you’re not from Ohio, he leads one of the best districts in the state).
What this proves is that breaking free of the paradigm of standardized testing is extremely difficult if you live within the paradigm (and is yet another threat to the long term existence of brink and mortar school districts if leaders lack the ability to work outside of this paradigm).