Problems with standardized testing

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Problems with standardized testing

Standardized testing is a pretty hot topic these days. How do I feel about it? I feel like it has a limited place. That place is if a student can't read well enough to read a multiple choice test, then that student is not going to read Melville or Hawthorne or Faulkner. It ought to be the beginning point of education. In other words, the skills you need to pass a standardized test should be basic beginning skills. It should not be the end-all of education. The end-all should be much more dramatic, and something much more challenging. Generally speaking, standardized tests don't focus on critical thinking or divergent thinking. Standardized tests focus on conversion thinking. In a standardized test, you need to know how to answer someone else's question. In real education, you need to be able to go beyond and answer your own questions. You can't do that in standardized testing. If the education that you are receiving is focused on the standardized testing, then that's what you are getting. You are getting standardized thinking, and everybody says you need creative thinking. Standardized testing, that's not the way to go. It's a good start. It's letting you know if you are teaching the right skills or not, but it's not the end-all of education.

See Paul Cummins, PhD's video on Problems with standardized testing...


Expert Bio

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Paul Cummins, PhD

Educator & Author

Dr. Paul Cummins, President and CEO of Coalition for Engaged Education (CEE), received his bachelor of arts from Stanford University, his MAT from Harvard, and his doctorate from the University of Southern California.  In 1971, he co-founded Crossroads School in Santa Monica and built it into one of Los Angeles’s most successful educational institutions and a national model for innovative, independent schools. 

In 1995, Cummins stepped down as Headmaster of Crossroads and formed New Visions Foundation (now Coalition for Engaged Education) to offer opportunities for Engaged Education to all youth. The first venture was New Roads School, a diverse, K-12 independent school in Santa Monica that has a deep commitment to social justice. New Roads devotes 40% of its tuition budget to need-based student financial aid, guaranteeing access to students from a wide socioeconomic array. Cummins has since implemented a number of innovative programs to help children at risk.

Cummins has published four books on education, including Proceed With Passion: Engaging Students in Meaningful Education (2004), and Two Americas, Two Educations: Funding Quality Schools for all Students (2007), both published by Red Hen Press. His most recent book of essays, Why Poetry? Reflections on Poetry, Writing and Culture, was published in 2009 by Xlibris, in addition to two volumes of his poetry and two children's books published in recent years. He is currently finishing Confessions of a Headmaster: My Pursuit of Joy and Justice in Education (forthcoming from Red Hen Press).

Cummins and his wife Mary Ann reside in Santa Monica. They have four daughters and five grandchildren.

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