50: Testing

A Thousand Things to Talk About
50: Testing

Today, we’re talking about testing

Is the trend towards more testing helping or hurting education?

Show notes and links:
The bar exam is unfair and undemocratic (Newsweek)
The Unintended Consequences of China’s Ultra High-Stakes College Entrance Exam (Bloomberg)
What Are Education Tests For, Anyway? (NPR)

Full episode text

Testing is an extraordinarily complicated subject in education circles for a number of reasons, not least of which because high-stakes testing is an extraordinarily controversial topic.

First, it’s important to differentiate between types of tests. There’s formulative tests, which measure progress. There’s summative tests, which measure an entire body of knowledge. High-stakes testing is usually a summative test. And those tests exist in more areas than just school. Licensing tests, entrance exams, and more are all often based on a single exam of some kind.

And there’s often argument about it all. Everything from exams that measure student success in the US to the single Chinese school entrance exam to the bar examination for lawyers. There are strong arguments that assessment is important in learning, and that some kind of barrier to entry or understanding of placement is important for professions, but there is a similarly strong argument that teaching to the test is the exclusion of all other topics, and therefore harmful.