Tuesday, May 13

Student Thought: Fighting the test prep culture — with a Testing Class

I've been tossing around this idea for a while now as I've been finishing up the final classes of my senior year. It's a little out there, so please stay with me till the end.

The test prep culture in our schools is bad and widespread. It detracts from learning. It pervades all of our classes. It impedes good relationships between students and teachers. How do we rid ourselves of this beast? Well, my answer — and I know it is kind of out there — is this: Legitimize it!

What do you mean, Seth? That's ridiculous! Why would we legitimize something that we want to get rid of?

What I am suggesting here is that we legitimize testing by recognizing that for primary and secondary education students it is important to know how to take a test and how to take it well.

Standardized tests in 4th and 7th grade are sometimes the only way to distinguish among such a large and diverse field of applicants in middle and high school admissions. And the SAT and ACT tests one of the current standards for college admissions (except at a couple of amazing liberal arts schools that have made the SAT optional). And right now, the social divide between people with college educations and those without is growing, and in today's world, you're going to have to take some tests in order to get that seemingly magical degree.

Thus, the ability to take a test is quite a valuable one. So why not create a class to teach that skill?

Testing Class, as I will call it, by its very nature would be a process- (instead of content-) based learning class, something we need more of in our schools. It would teach students how to approach many problems and issues. It would also be more helpful in preparing them for standardized tests, by focusing on specific skills rather than today's tactic of vaguely tying it into other subjects, which just confuses students as to what they're supposed to be concentrating on. This aspect of the class could also hopefully improve equality by giving students who can't afford pricey test prep services these helpful skills.

But the most important part of Testing Class will be that it will alleviate the need for test prep in academic subjects. Academic teachers will then be able to focus more on other skills, such as writing, approaching a document, understanding complex conceptual ideas, and taking on creative projects.

Just an idea...

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