Solving the Testing Problem

The root of the solution of the education problem in America has to do with the need to eliminate competitive test scores, not with the need to improve students' performance on them. It is critical to recognize that the schools cannot be changed in any important sense until fixed curricula are eliminated. But fixed curricula will not be eliminated until we change the way we assess students.

Bear in mind that when adults take courses in subjects for which they pay money--courses in photography, weight loss, yoga, home repair--there is no test at the end. There isn't a need for a test because the students are their own masters. They set their own standards, and rather than having themselves be judged, they judge the teacher. Lack of motivation is not a problem when the student deliberately sets out to learn a new skill.

We shouldn't be distracted by trying to win the unofficial world test score competition. Instead, we should measure the success of our educational system by whether or not we are producing graduates who have internalized the ability and desire to learn. The best sign of a successful education system would be that students want to go to school, that they remain excited about learning once they get there, and that in the end, they are prepared to creatively respond to the kinds of open-ended problems they will actually face in the world.

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