Fair Test

FairTest is one of those small citizen groups with a big mission. Working out of their small Cambridge, Massachusetts offices, FairTest has forged a large coalition of education, parent and civil rights organizations which is calling on President Bush and the fifty state Governors to “stop relying on standardized multiple-choice tests to measure educational goals.” Instead, the coalition wants these officials to move “toward assessments based on actual student performance.”

FairTest Associate Director Dr. Monty Neill explained: “The testing craze has damaged the quality of our schools. Low-income and minority-group children have been particularly harmed. Teaching the narrow content included in multiple choice tests has prevented students from learning higher order thinking skills. President Bush and the Governors must recognize that genuine school reform and multiple‑ choice testing are mutually incompatible.”

This latest campaign against multiple-choice testing builds on a decade of disclosures and analyses which show that these tests, such as the SAT. PSAT, predict the performance of a student in college far less accurately than do high school grade scores. Studies have also demonstrated a correlation of test scores with family income — reflecting a cultural bias against poorer minority children. More recently, a gender bias against girls has been shown. called in the profession authentic testing.”

Authentic evaluation includes a wide variety of measures, such as written work, solutions to science problems, experiments, exhibitions, performances, portfolios of work, teacher observations and cooperative group projects.

History and social studies evaluation can include group efforts by students preparing a history of the community or discovering how a law or policy was changed. Foreign language assessments would ask students to use the language in a real-life situation, orally and in print.

As FairTest puts it: “School and communities will see that authenticassessments are promoting the thinking curriculum everyone wants for our children, and thereby providing genuine accountability.”

Right now, these multiple-choice tests are being used to determine curricula, compare and judge classes, schools, school districts and even have been offered by Governors as arguments to attract industry to their states. This is a farce premised on a specialized form of standardized testing fraud inherent in these tests.

Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told a conference sponsored by the Educational Testing service in 1969 that he “would call for an immediate end to standardized tests as they are now… The tests are not relevant to the outside world …Teachers are forced to spend a lot of time helping students to do better on standardized tests, which are really narrow… To test for depth of knowledge, you have to get a away from things that are machine gradable.”

Hasn’t that been the problem? It has been so easy to lay it on the machine, instead of on the people working the schools.

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