Feb. 4th, 2011

gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]I think a big problem is going to be that everyone's biased based on how they themselves performed on the tests. I did pretty well on the SAT (1440) and really quite well on the GRE (710 math, 800 verbal, 5.5 analytical writing). I think standardized tests should be one of many criteria college admissions offices use. But would I have a different opinion if I hadn't done well on the tests? Some of the traits that helped my performance on the test - being self-motivated and hard-working, reading a lot, having a commitment to lifelong learning - also help me produce better work in school and a career.

I know studies have shown that standardized test scores are a poor predictor of performance. I can see how people who do well in real life have test-taking anxiety and their test score is an underestimate their true abilities. And I know lazy, ignorant people can pay thousands of dollars to take a test-prep course and improve their score from "abysmal" to "acceptable." There are many factors that determine someone's score on a test and a lot of those factors have nothing to do with how well they'll do in real life. But that doesn't mean the test is completely useless; there are some factors that test-taking and real-world-productivity have in common, as I said above. I think it's good to have standardized test scores available because it's the only measure that's consistent across the board - someone could have a really high GPA and glowing recommendations but not actually be very bright if they went to a high school that had low standards. We need a valid, fair way to compare students who went to different schools.

On the other hand, I think the tests required by No Child Left Behind are stupid. A nationwide high school exit exam is a good idea in principle but they're doing it wrong. One big problem with nationally imposed standards for curriculum (which is sort of on a tangent, I know, but the standards are in place because of the test) is that it takes a long time for something like that to be updated, there's a lot of bureaucracy to get through and a lot of different interests all competing with each other. The result is we're forced to cover a watered down, out-of-date version of everything; this is especially a problem in science education.

January 2012

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