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Standardized Testing: The Temporal Scan of Education

As the pandemic rages and the issue of testing is discussed in a medical context, I’ve found myself increasingly noticing the parallels between the the ways in which America has discussed and politicized Covid testing and the way in which America has politicized and discussed educational testing. These parallels between medical and educational testing have me wondering if it’s a human or American failing that leads to the being so easily seduced by as Alfred Binet, father of IQ testing, put it “a simple, brutal number, which can have only a deceptive precision.

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Don’t Believe the Hype

Brigham tried to warn you in 1936. PE tried to warn you in 1988. Bigham tried to warn you repeatedly since 1990.

But, unfortunately, since the marketing machine of the testing agencies got their grips into the Stanvard Universities the narrative of the SAT providing access has taken root in the American psyche and far too many have bought into the hype about what standardized testing does and doesn’t do. Specifically about what it does and doesn’t do for Black and Hispanic people as a group.

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Shuffling the Deckchairs of Testing

I wrote this back in March but then … The Rona. I’m publishing it now since BPS just chose their vendor. I’ll likely dig into that vendor and the test first on twitter but eventually I’ll post something about it here.

After a very public breakup with test-maker Education Records Bureau (ERB), Boston Public Schools is seeking a “new test” that “accurately assesses a student’s knowledge of content they’re taught in class and has been rigorously reviewed to ensure it is free of bias.” This is disappointing since it shows that BPS seems to be set on continuing to ignore research and reiterating its faith in the cult of overtesting. 

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It’s Time to Fix Standardized Testing

The global pandemic has wreaked havoc and the educational status quo and disrupted not only how students are taught and tested. Schools are radically adjusting how they deliver lessons and testing agencies are revamping how they deliver their assessment. The inability to gather in a room has forced the cancellation of statewide assessments, the shortening of AP exams, and major admissions tests (like the ACTGMATGRE, ISEELSATSAT, and SSAT) to develop online at-home testing options. This is the moment to fix many of the things that are broken about assessments. 

Since their beginnings in the late 1800s, standardized tests have become an oppressive force in U.S. education and have influenced many other areas of society, yet in that same time there have been only marginal changes in the tests themselves. Despite reams of papers and scores of conference presentations, a high score on a 4 or 5 answer-choice aggressively-timed test continues to be treated as the epitome of intellectual demonstration. This has gone so far that, in the midst of a global pandemic, one (intentionally unnamed or linked to) author questioned whether epidemiologists should be heeded above economists, asking, “How smart are they? What are their average GRE scores?”

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College, Career, and Cremation Benchmarks

As the new school year begins, I am anxiously awaiting (read: dreading) the forthcoming SAT and ACT annual reports and with them the inevitable exaggerations, hand-wringings, misinterpretations, and statistical paralogisms that will follow. The College Board’s Total Group Reports and ACT’s Condition of College and Career Readiness Reports (or Profile Reports) will not only spark the annual “sky-is-falling because district scores have dropped .005 points” responses but will also likely lead to an uptick in the “SAT/ACT scores show students not ready to succeed in college, career, life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.”

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Are Changes Coming to College Admissions?

We know it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s been less than 6 months since the Justice Department announced the indictments resulting from Operation Varsity Blues, so it’s no surprise that few universities have announced any substantial policy changes in their admissions procedures. If most big institutions move slowly, universities look at them and wonder, “What’s the big rush there?”  There are still committees to be convened in order to create sub-committees that can issue memos that can be circulated in order to be approved as official reports by committees who can then move items forward for approval by the faculty and/or Board of Trustees. In other words, don’t expect big changes in how colleges admit students anytime soon.

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Temperature is to Testing as ….

Recently Marten Roorda, CEO of ACT reminded us that throwing away the thermometer won’t get rid of a fever and he’s 100% right. Of course, no doctor in the world thinks that tossing the thermometer will cure an identified ailment. Mr. Roorda’s analogy in defense of the ACT (and attacking the test optional movement) was really subtle and I think many will miss all the ways in which the analogy works. Since I’m a fan of a good analogy (except when they are put on a test) I’m going to help make sure everyone understands why this is an amazing analogy.

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GRE: The One Test

Since the 1980s, Educational Testing Service (ETS), which dominated educational admission testing from 1940 – 1980, has been hemorrhaging product lines. In its heyday (SAT word) ETS was the Sauron to US education’s Middle Earth, providing admissions tests for the vast majority of professional certification programs and higher ed admissions.  Their services ranged from teacher certification exams to the SAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, and LSAT. In the last decade or so, ETS business strategy has changed and the organization has begun to aggressively market their most popular remaining assessment product, the Graduate Record Exam (commonly known by its initialism – GRE), as “the One Test to Assess Them All.” This strategic market grab, while an interesting business strategy, raises significant questions about all admission tests. Specifically, the expansion of the GRE into fields beyond its design should force responsible test users to reevaluate long-held assumptions about what information is being gained by requiring the GRE (and all its brethren) and at what cost.

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IACAC 2019 Keynote Address

Recently, I had the honor of delivering the Keynote address at the 2019 IACAC Conference. I thought it would be cool to share some of the highlights of that talk and some of the reference resources here.

The core message of my talk was that the American educational system is not a meritocracy as most people think of the word, but instead is a meritocracy in the original sense of the word as it was satirically coined by Micheal Young in 1958.

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Why Aren’t More Colleges Test Optional?

Since the inception of the SAT in 1926, the admission world has debated (1976, 2001, 2008, 2015, 2018, 2019) the impact of and validity of the SAT (and later the ACT, CLT, CCTST, etc) on the pool of applicants and enrolled students at a university. Recently, more and more colleges have been asking themselves should they diminish the role of testing in their admission process and declare a test optional admissions policy.

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