Friday, March 12, 2010

Testing is Bad Because People Cheat?


There's an . . . interesting argument being circulated in the education world, to the effect that because a handful of schools or teachers are motivated to cheat on standardized tests, the real blame should be laid on the fact that we have tests in the first place.

Here's Diane Ravitch (formerly a staunch defender of testing), speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on March 10:
There's a front page story in the Chicago Sun-Times Today about thousands of test scores being erased and altered to raise them. This is what the pressure for proficiency has created: institutionalized fraud.
Similarly, there's this from a March 5 article on possible cheating in Houston:
“Cheating on tests has been rampant,” said Tom Haladyna, professor emeritus in the College of Teacher Education and Leadership at Arizona State University. “Many of us think the culprit is tying accountability to a single test score. It is a bad policy. It motivates a few to cheat so they can look good.”
By this logic, such as it is, we should abolish medical boards for potential doctors, tests for commercial pilots to get licensed, bar exams for attorneys, and tests to be licensed as a nuclear engineer, if it turns out that cheating ever occurs. After all, if any of these poor souls are so stressed out that they cheat on an important test, it's really our fault for asking them to meet performance standards in the first place.

Needless to say, this is one of the weaker arguments against testing.



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