Monday, November 4, 2013

On Standards and Standardization

One of the videos this week in my Adobe Digital Creativity class involved Sir Ken Robinson's take on the changing educational paradigm.  At the core of this paradigm shift, and resistance to change, is the prevalence of standardized testing.

I live and teach in a culture that is increasingly dominated by standardized tests.  Last year, my son had his first round of this testing -- 4 days of standardized tests... for a third grader.  And while I don't teach a core academic class, Career & Technical Education is not immune to this growing trend.  In fact, all Career & Technical classes must have an industry-approved standardized test.

I believe that the proponents of standardized testing have good intentions - increased student performance, students that are better prepared for the future, "21st Century Skills."  (I put that last one in quotes because it's such a great buzzword when really what people mean is "computer skills.")  Who wouldn't want these things?!  Can a standardized test ensure that students will do better, simply because it exists? Do people honestly believe that teachers were never focused on these goals in the first place?

A standardized test offers a snapshot of student performance on that day, under very limited circumstances.  More often than not, it's a multiple-choice test (because it's easy to grade), that does not necessarily reflect the needs of an industry (because it's often outdated).  And therein lies the problem -- a standardized test doesn't have an actual connection to standards.

Increasing the standards of a course of study is always a desired goal of educators.  In order to meet that new goal, though, a teacher needs to be able to teach in authentic ways that engage students.  Once engaged, students become invested in their own education.  Which is what we want, right?  An educated, motivated, creative student body?

Finland is often touted as a fantastic example of educational reform: Article & Video.  Guess how many standardized tests students take each year!

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