Re: grades

Michael J. Salvo (
Mon, 26 Aug 1996 20:53:41 -0600

now, i don't see conspiracies everywhere nor do i think there is an
organized effort at colusion, but when i was at suny albany not to long ago
(a year? 18 months?) at which a presentation was given linking publishing
companies with the larger standardized testing ventures i started to wonder
if any attempt at educational/pedagogical improvement can take place with
current testing/grading practices (i see them as inextricably linked).

it wasn't a presentation meant to blow any whistle or reveal some deep
seated corruption -- but that would be an easy problem to solve. instead,
and i forget the presenter's name, the presentation was geared towards
showing how, in a society more geared toward the outcome (the standardized
test grade) than the value of the education the test was designed to
measure, we've lost sight -- as a culture -- of what the test is and what a
test is supposed to be *measuring*.

heisenberg -- we change our results by measuring, by using light on
subatomic particles or letters, percentages, whatever applied to thoughts.

my high school education (yes, i remember it all too well) was geared
towards the long-term goals of SAT success and yearly success on new york
state regents exams. any interesting topic was deflected because the
teacher felt obliged to "cover the material." it killed any feeling of
learning, of *enjoying* learning i started to have and i was *never*
interested in anything in school, except some extra-curricular activities --
and i wish i had a real option from this ... torture.

by and large, i suspect that most classes are taught to succeed on the final
exam and most schools geared towards achieving high SAT or AP exam scores.
driving home from tech's campus this afternoon, i passed a sign that read
"congratulations, coronado, for the highest PASS scores in texas." i've
learned that PASS is the rough equivalent of a huge regents exam, or a high
school exit exam -- and, like the SAT and the new york state tests, measures
how well the beaurocracy of the school system creates the product of high
test scores. doesn't matter what the schools do or teach; are the ^&%$*&@#
scores high!

back to the albany presentation -- which was delivered by an ex-official of
a major testing service (i won't try to remember which one, and i'm sure
this is a part of all of them). this person reported that school systems
hounded testing services for hints about the exams -- and changed their
curricula, if subtlely, based on even the faintest rumor of testing trends.
rather than spent time, effort, *money* on the development of teaching, on
the improvement of buildings, or even on university research into effective
education, technologically enahanced or not, folks spent time and resources
on cracking the test. and if one book seemed to help raise scores, schools
took it on as their curricular text -- not because the books were better,
worse, or newer, (and sometimes the books are worse!) but because soemone
heard this book or that book is closer to predicting AP test topics or
somesuch intellectual alchemy.

in working for the perceived best interests of students, school systems
undermine the classroom experience and encourage (and all too often enforce)
teaching to the exam, and the publisher that gets their books to reflect
testing norms gets their books in the classroom.

it's such a pathetic situation. and apparently hopeless, i sometimes think.
i felt like i should die, literally, rather than do poorly on the SAT when i
was 16. i took the GRE twice and, while i didn;t study either time, felt
like i *should* be preparing in some way -- and lost sleep. i *knew* that
my future was, in part, going to be decided by sitting for ONE test on ONE
day for a few lousy hours. nice way of deciding a human being's potential,
i think NOT.

and i think that, ultimately, we educate this way because it offers a simple
and easy way to cull applicants -- it's a part of the factory model. we
need(ed) a way to catagorize and classify large numbers of people looking
for long-term emplyment doing similar things in similar companies in similar
grey-flannell power suits.

but our post-industrial society doesn't need this any more, or at least i
suspect (and hope) that this means of catagorization is less applicable --
educators have little sense of what's *needed* by culture so why should our
evaluative criteria be valued. we have to develop new means of *teaching*
-- and i think that the evaluation can be let go more and more. i'm
beginning to feel that eric's right: baby out with the bathwater. maybe
we'll wake up from this testing/grading nightmare.


At 04:09 PM 8/26/96 -0500, Eric Crump wrote:

>Standardized tests have to go, too. And quizzes. Comprehensive finals. Phd
>qualifying exams. GRE. MCAT. LSAT. ACT. SAT. All of them. Out the window.
>Babies. Bathwater. Tub. Towel. The works.