By: Yana Weinstein & Megan Smith
Last night, the Boston Globe published our highly controversial opinion on standardized testing. The comments are already pouring in – we’re “supporting our own business” and we “don't give a flying pig about students”.
Read the article here.
We learned a lot during the process of getting this article published in the press: you have to be really careful with the suggested edits, and you won’t always get to say exactly what you want. Case in point: we almost ended up with the phrase “proven method” in our article!! The horror!
So, we wanted to take the opportunity in the freedom of our own blog to fill out what was missing from the article we had tried to write. Specifically, there were quite a few references and links that we had wanted to include, so here they are.
The “famous experiment” we mentioned (not our phrase!) was by Roediger and Karpicke; we described it in more detail in this blog post.
We wanted to include an example of an anti-testing article to illustrate the awkwardness we feel when we hear so much negativity about them. As it happens, another Standardized Testing article was published in the Huffington Post on Monday, and addresses this issue and other aspects of the opt-out movement quite eloquently.
"To put it plainly: white parents from well-funded and highly performing areas are participating in petulant, poorly conceived protests that are ultimately affecting inner-city blacks at schools that need the funding and measures of accountability to ensure any hope of progress in performance." -- Charles F. Coleman Jr.
Tests cause anxiety
We drew some of our arguments throughout the story from an excellent public opinion piece by Aaron Benjamin and Hal Pashler. And the “anxiety redirection” we mention is based on the poetically titled empirical paper, “Turning the knots in your stomach into bows […]” by Jamieson and colleagues, who describe an intervention in which students are told that the anxiety they feel before a test is actually helpful – not harmful – to their test performance. Compared to controls who were not given this information, students who experienced this reattribution intervention performed better on their GRE 1-3 months later.
Standardized tests are biased
In the bias section, we referred to an article by Steven Pinker where he pushes standardized testing even more than us as the only measure (on grounds of objectivity) that ought to be used for admission to universities. And to balance out the argument, we linked to this report on sex differences in the SAT.
Tests don’t provide prompt feedback
In this section we pointed out that although students can and do learn from tests without feedback -- see Roediger on the many benefits of testing -- prompt feedback is still best. We also noted that although computerized tests bring promise with respect to feedback, a recent story suggests that the technology transition might be far from seamless.
Finally, we linked to an excellent blog post by the Learning Spy (David Didau) on the important difference between learning and performance.
Overall, this was an interesting experience! We are quickly learning why all researchers aren't writing for sources outside of their academic silos. It's difficult, and there's a lot of negativity! One person actually told us we should report a conflict of interest because a testing company could hire us at some point in our lives, and we shouldn't deny we want to make money. If we wanted to make money, we wouldn't be professors!! But, we are passionate about our goals to help students learn and promote more cross-expert conversation.