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Michael Paul Goldenberg

Posts: 7,041
From: Ann Arbor, MI
Registered: 12/3/04
tomatoes
Posted: Aug 2, 2000 10:40 AM
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att1.html (3.2 K)

Among the most articulate critics of the tests are the boycotting students,
who complain about narrowing opportunities and shrinking curricula. The most
exciting ninth-grade course in his school, says Will Greene, a high school
sophomore in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is a science-and-technology
class with a lot of hands-on experimentation. In the 1998-1999 school year,
when students could take the class without worrying about MCAS, eighty
students enrolled; this past year enrollment fell to thirty. Greene says
that students feel the course will not help them pass the test, and failing
the test next year could mean they don't get a diploma. "At least create a
test," wrote Alison Maurer, an eighth-grader in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
"that doesn't limit what students learn, something that shows what we have
learned, not what we haven't."

Since some of you may not have the time or means to read the article in the
current ATLANTIC MONTHLY to which I pointed you in my previous post, let me
just quote the above paragraph. It never seems to occur to test advocates
that the cost of getting those wonderful standardized instruments shoved
down everyone's throat may throwing some pretty admirable babies out with
the bath water. Of course, student and parental opinions only matter when
they are the same as one's own, right? The parents and students cited in
Schrag's article are no doubt fuzzy liberals all, racists (well-meaning or
otherwise), or dupes of the educrats.

When I took the Ph.D qualifying exams in the English department of the
University of Florida in 1976, it comprised three two-hour sessions each of
which required that we choose ONE of more than a dozen questions and address
it as thoroughly as we could. I was informed by a couple of my professors
that the point of the exam was to let as show what we knew, not expose what
we didn't know. Sounds like Alison Maurer would concur, no doubt an
indication that the rather traditional, conservative faculty that ran that
department a quarter century ago must have been operating at an eight grade
level. Probably should have given us all standardized, objective tests of
important facts and dates from the history of literature, a doctoral-level
version of the ETS' old favorite Test of Standard Written English, and an
essay question in which our interpretive/critical abilities were measured
against the "standard" interpretation of a given work, probably the
interpretation given by the champion of objective criticism, E.D. Hirsch.
Instead of the honors pass I earned, I would have been kicked out of the
program on the spot, saving me and the university all sorts of time and
money.

But what about "the basics"? Shouldn't there be SOME barebones minimum to
which we can hold EVERYONE'S little feet? How can we be effective
Inquisitors (sorry, I mean examiners) without knowing What Every Child Needs
To Know? What about "core knowledge?" Why, if every school and teacher can
set its, his, or her own standards, we'd have. . . DIVERSITY.



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