thinking between the lines

Teachers, What Do You Suggest We Do?

The other night, I received a message from Matt Cochran, a former student of mine. After some kind words about my blog, he quickly got to the point that prompted him to write: my stance on standardized testing. He wrote:

“… here lately I’ve become curious. I see that you take a stance against the STAAR/EOC exams. My curiosity is in what you think would be the optimal alternative. What type of standardized testing, if any, would maximize the passing of knowledge from teacher to student?”

Wow! That is THE question, isn’t it? What would we teachers – not politicians or even administrators, but teachers – suggest we do to address our country’s educational woes?

I’d like to offer Matt more than my opinion alone. The fact that he sees value in asking someone in the classroom deserves more than a single response; after all, this is a step farther than what many educational leaders take. So, I’m posting his question here, hoping teachers across the United States and even those from other countries will take a few minutes to address Matt’s question: what type of standardized testing, if any, would maximize the passing of knowledge from teacher to student?

It’s a good question. Let’s give him some good answers.

(If you prefer to submit a private response, please email me (, and I’ll get your comments to Matt.)

Matt, here is the response Diane Ravitch sent your way. She is one of the top education leaders in our country.

January 26, 2013 at 9:49 pm
Please tell this young man that no standardized test can assure the passing along of knowledge from teacher to student. A yardstick is a measure; it doesn’t make you grow taller. A test is a measure, not a means of instruction.
More valuable than a standardized test would be an assignment in which the student is asked to write a research paper about a topic of interest. Conduct research on a historical or political issue. Compare different books. This is how students learn: they learn by thinking and acting and assembling what they have learned into a coherent report to their teacher.

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Categorised in: Education, Politics

9 Responses »

  1. I’m passing this on to our local educators. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Jeff. The more, the better.

      • It will take me a while to get used to the new comments sytsem, since I am old(62 years old) and to thick-headed to adjust to the new ways of you younger folk. (BCF You are a young whippersnappper).The sytsem seems to remember me though (this is my second post). This week I am worried about the U.S. debt negotiations. And in Halifax, where I am vacationing, there is exposure only to left-wing news sources. No National Post, no Tornto Sun, no Sun TV, no Fox News TV. Yesterday there was a gay-pride parade, and lot’s of women in hijabs and burkas. No wonder Nova Scotia has an NDP government.

    • My major concern is that the new scohol, if built, will be in the same mold of scohols of the past. Right now, if you were a teacher from the 1800 s, and you walked into the majority of classrooms across the country you could tell that it was a classroom. There would be a teacher’s desk, nice little student desks, a chalkboard, and some textbooks. It is a classroom set up for passive learning to service a community where reading, writing, and citizenship are the primary goals. However, in our changing economy, these are not the only skills a productive citizen needs to build a good life and contribute to the community. The skills needed today, along with the basic skills of the past, are thinking and problem solving. Students need to be active participants in their education not just passive vessels being filled from the fountain of knowledge we call a teacher.We must build a scohol that will prepare our students for tomorrow’s economy what ever that may entail.

  2. Tests don’t pass knowledge. Teachers need to teach basic knowledge and how to think and analyse information.

  3. That is a great question! I understand the need for standardized testing. It is a way to keep teachers accountable for student knowledge. If there wasn’t standardized tests or curriculum standards (State Standards and now Common Core Standards), teachers in different districts wouldn’t have a baseline for where student learning should be. That said, I don’t think that standardized tests should be used in the high stakes way that they are. I don’t think we should scrap them, but I don’t think they should be our basis for evaluation.

    I don’t know what the right measure of learning would be. Maybe a mixture of testing and portfolio. We need to look at the whole student. Tests just give us a snippet of the knowledge a student has gained. What we should be looking for is comprehension as a whole. Unfortunately that means more work for the evaluator.

    • There are international sochols you can go to. I don’t know your religious preference, but Association of Christian School International is always looking for teachers to go abroad to a huge variety of countries. The sochols are taught in English and you can go to a different place every year. Check it out on .There are about 100 countries they go to and you can find out some info about it on the website. Feel free to send me a message should you need any more information about it. I thought about going, but never actually stepped up and did it. Good luck to you and God bless.

  4. Well, Lisa and Matt, the answer is that there is no, not any, absolutamente ningun, standardized test that is either reliable or valid. Noel Wilson has pointed out thirteen sources of error in the educational standards and standardized testing process that render any conclusions/results, as he states, “vain and illusory”. To understand why please read his 1997 dissertation “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” found at: . For a shorter take on the invalidities involved in the process see his take down of the testing bible “A Little Less than Valid: An Essay Review” found at: or .

    Hope that helps!

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