Greetings to all of you. We hope you enjoy this issue of Eye2theWorld and go away with some really new insights. Hopefully you will click on several of our links and find that they can help you gain new perspectives about living in our global society.
A few days ago I was walking along Main Street when I heard someone shout at me.
“Hey, Rueff! What ya doin’ here? I ain’t seen ya in a coon’s age.”
I turned around and, at first didn’t recognize who it was. Then I saw that bow legged walk! Sure enough, it was Ziggy Zabowski, a social studies student I’d had in the ninth grade, way back decades ago.
“Ziggy Zabowski,” I said. “My gosh, I haven’t seen you since junior high school. What’s on your mind?”
“Rueff, you spent some time out there in what the teachers called the Taj Mahal, right?”
“If you mean the Administration Building for the Elkhart school system I plead guilty.”
“And you were in charge of the dumb testing program, right?”
“Well, I handled the state and local assessment systems, if that’s what you mean.”
“It’s dumb; that’s what I mean. Kids ‘n teachers are spendin’ so much time getting ready for those dumb tests they ain’t got time to enjoy learnin’, and that ain’t right! I know my kids would learn better if they were happy about stuff, and I’d learn right along with ’em, ’cause I have to help ’em with their homework. But now, those dumb tests put so much pressure on the kids and teachers and me, there ain’t no time for fun! Why do they gotta give ’em, anyway?”
“Ziggy, you make a very good point. But people are scared that our students aren’t keeping up with those in other parts of the world. And these tests are supposed to help hold students, teachers, and schools accountable. Hopefully students’ achievement will improve as a result.”
“Accountable? What’s that got to do with those dumb tests?”
“Ziggy, do you remember back in our social studies class you learned three words that economists call the most important three words in the English language?”
“Yeah, I bet you’re surprised, ’cause I do. Supply and demand!”
“Great. Now people who specialize in tests have three words they think are most important.”
“Okay, ya got me.”
“Reliability and validity. How do those grab you?”
“Huh, what da ya mean?”
“Well, reliability means that, under similar conditions, you want the tests to give the same information time after time. It’s like having an umpire in a ball game. You want consistency in his or her calls, right? To make sure you get information across many classes or schools that is reliable you have to have the same testing instruments, and you want to be certain that the results would be the same anywhere under the same conditions.
“Equally important, if not more so, is validity. You want the tests to actually test what has been taught and hopefully learned. Only then can they be a valid measure of what has been accomplished.”
“Oh, Rueff, you make it sound so simple. But can everything that kids or me should learn in any class be on them dumb tests? We’re supposed to be gettin’ ready to live and work in a really new world. How can any dumb test find answers to everything we should know? What about them finer things in life, like music and art, and what about all that hard problem solving we’re goin’ to have to deal with? Can a test tell us how we’re doin’ in those things?”
“Ziggy, you’ve hit on a really big problem. The pressure by folks all over the country means that the tests are king. We aren’t getting at everything that people should learn.”
Ziggy was quiet for a moment and then he exclaimed, “Dang, what this means is that in order to have valid tests you have to have lessons that are supposed to teach what’s goin’ to be on the tests! An’ with the pressure on to learn all the stuff on the test there ain’t no more fun. Ya know, that’s only not fair, it’s not goin’ to make things better like they think it will.”
“You’re absolutely right, Ziggy. It’s kind of like the tail wagging the dog! Instead of developing curriculum geared to 21st century needs, we tailor the curriculum to the tests the kids are required to take.”
Ziggy looked at me for a second and then said, “Rueff, I gotta go for now. ARF! ARF!”