sunnuntai 14. lokakuuta 2012

Standardized testing -one more time

Today as I searched through my Twitter feed, I happened to retweet a tweet by a Finnish professor Kirsti Lonka. The tweet was a link to an article in the Washington Post. The article was -once again -about standardized testing. It was a speech that a Long Island principal Carol Burris gave to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Education Commission last week.

Basically, Carol Burris' and her collegues' concern was that the test based school reform is ruining the whole system in America. American school system has a long history in believing in standardized testing. It hasn't changed a lot even thou many of the nations most admired educators have been against it for a long time, people like Diane Ravitch for example.

It's pretty easy to understand the strong belief in standardized testing in America. The all-american-dream is to make it in life -to be succesful. And it's not a bad dream at all. We all want to succeed. Standardized testing gives you the feeling of control. When you know where you are at, it's easier to put your objectives higher next time. (In some countries you would probably sabotage your neighbour and you would LOOK better next time -compared to your neighbour. But not in America).

In Finland, we don't do standardized testing at all. Or almost at all. We have one standardized test called marticulation examination. You do that after you've completed upper-secondary school in Finland. Probably the best known educator in Finland, Mr. Pasi Sahlberg, writes in his book "Finnish Lessons" that "a frequently expressed criticism by teachers and school principals in Finland is that the marticulation examination causes 'teaching to the test' and thus narrows curriculum and increases stress among students and teachers."

If there is stress among the upper-secondary school students, teachers and principals, one can only imagine what the frequent testing does to, say, elementary school pupils. The stress must be pretty hard to handle. I have already one time covered the issue, what the testing might cause to the teachers so I'm not going to go deeper to that subject now.

It seems to me that most of the American educators are already against the frequent standardized testing. I haven't read an article in a long time that supports the testing. So, the question is, why keep doing that?

Peter, Paul and Mary put it in Where Have All the Flowers Gone like this: "Oh, when will they ever learn, oh, when will they ever learn?" I believe that the seeds are sown for the real reform. Just keep pushing America!

ps. In case you haven't noticed, there's another great book about the Finnish school system in the internet called Miracle of Finland -The Principles and Practices of Teaching and Learning in Finnish Schools.

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