commentary

aiming high, accepting failure

A friend recently sent me a fantastic article from 3quarksdaily entitled “You’ve Failed Again – Well Done!”  The piece articulates, among other interesting insights, why multiple choice tests are not the proper means for evaluating students on a wide-scale basis.  And why this wave of emphasis on standardized testing – such as the recent decision to make passing the MCAS in English and Math mandatory for graduation in Massachusetts – is not the way to improve education attainment.

The multiple choice test, the test of choice for state mandated testing in elementary and middle school and often beyond, is not, by its very nature, a vehicle that can encourage creativity or experimentation. If we increasingly evaluate our children using these tests, and spend a large part of every school day teaching them to take these tests, then what we are teaching them is that to choose the wrong answer is to fail, this failure is something to avoid at all costs and that there are repercussions that can sometimes ripple through an entire life. If this is the focal point of learning, as increasingly it is, then what we are raising is a risk-adverse generation who see no value in failure, try to avoid it at all costs and are in fact terrified of it. And this is not a good thing for the future of US innovation.

While multiple-choice tests may be the quick and dirty way to see if a student is ‘achieving properly,’ it is precisely this definition of achievement that is so troublesome.  I highly recommend Firisen’s entire piece for more!

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