August 9, 2010 Leave a comment
A couple things make standardized testing difficult in any given educational setting:
- pressure to pass / excel
- expensive exam-taking and scoring process
- valid test construction
- contested utility
If the pressure leads to undue stress among students or teacher-aided cheating, or if the time lost to test-taking takes too much from the school schedule, or if test writers cannot crank out valid tests fast enough, or if one day of testing simply does not lead to gains, then standardized testing fails to achieve its desired effect on student learning.
An alternative test environment may remove these obstacles. Imagine a fragmented exam schedule instead of the massive 4 hour exams currently administered to students. Periodically throughout the academic year, students would respond to targeted questions benchmarking progress in well-defined fields of study. These questions can be administered via computer on both a scheduled and a random basis; depending on the student’s individual achievement and time passed between questions, the administrator can choose more conceptually complex questions. Following either a minimum number of correct questions or a maximum amount of time spent producing an answer, the administrator can decide whether to advance a student or to begin remedial intervention.
A fragmented standardized exam of this sort may be incentivized through small rewards for each correct answer, say, $1. If a student answers one correct question every school day, they could walk out the last day with $180 in their pocket and a good cache of knowledge – plus the prospect of earning / learning more. Allowing up to ten questions per day, kids could walk away with a small scholarship.