2014 November 11 Tuesday
Testing Mania In American Politics

If we just test them enough they'll become smarter.

In Florida, which tests students more frequently than most other states, many schools this year will dedicate on average 60 to 80 days out of the 180-day school year to standardized testing.

The quest to close the Great American Test Gap has driven federal, state, and local governments into a state of insanity. Just how long will the insanity last? The most important test is of course excluded: the IQ test. Such tests are important because General Cognitive Ability Is Substantially Heritable and Massively Polygenic. Hey, more testing can't change DNA sequences. The kids ought to be given IQ tests so that their rate of progress could be compared to their potential.

What would be a more constructive use of testing: enhanced memory formation. The testing would have to be done an optimal length of time after the kids get taught each piece of material. But the testing maniacs aren't trying to be scientific.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 November 11 08:49 PM 

Dan said at November 12, 2014 7:37 AM:

Whether a student is low IQ or high IQ, education should teach wisdom. In my view, the biggest error is not that we are mis-educating the dumb. It is that we are mis-educating the smarties.

Here are a few of the copybook headings of yore:

Actions speak louder than words.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.
He that lies down with the dogs rises with fleas.
One who steals has no right to complain if he is robbed.
What breaks in a moment may take years to mend.
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home.
Charity begins at home.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Who is mighty? He who makes an enemy into a friend.
It's okay to make a mistake, as long as you learn from it.
A man's house is his castle.
A good spouse and health is a person's best wealth.
Don't try to reinvent the wheel.

Can you imagine how different our current leaders would be if they had been educated for wisdom, the way people were taught a hundred years ago?

amac78 said at November 12, 2014 11:54 AM:

Re: Dan's listing of wisdom/common sense from a bygone era:

Lysenkoism is a variant of Blank-Slatism

Doesn't have much of a ring to it. Still, the concept and its explanatory power for why testing consumes 30% to 45% of Florida schoolchildren's school days are obvious to most readers of this blog, and entirely obscure to most of society's elites.

bob sykes said at November 13, 2014 4:43 AM:

Binet invented the IQ test to identify students who needed special help.

Black Death said at November 13, 2014 9:21 AM:

Testing certainly has a place, especially if it used to evaluate teacher and school performance or assign students to appropriate tracks; but teachers unions and education bureaucrats generally oppose using test scores to measure their performance, and student tracking has gone out of fashion (it might be racist!). I am pretty familiar with the German educational system, which uses tests too, but in a different fashion. The German system tests students at age 10 (!) and assigns them to different tracks, based on the results. The top students go to a Gymnasium, which leads to an Abitur, the ticket for admission to a university. The bottom rung is the Hauptschule, which usually leads to apprenticeships. In the middle is the Realschule. Also, passing an examination is usually required to obtain a degree or diploma. This is generally not the case in the US, although some states require it to obtain a high school diloma.

There are all sorts of fascinating comparisons between the two systems (the US spends more as a percentage of GDP, teacher salaries are higher in Germany, Americans spend more time in school, almost all Americans with a high school degree can attend some sort of college, but admission to the best schools is highly competitive, while in Germany, possession of an Abitur will get you into most universities for just about any field of study, except highly competitive ones such as medicine). In the past, most Germans blandly assumed that their educational system was better than that in the US, but the PISA test scores show that white Americans consistently outperform Germans. There is a growing tendency in Germany to send students to private rather than public schools, something with which Americans are quite familiar.

I'm not sure which system I like better, but I do respect Germany's use of test sores to assign students to appropriate tracks. The US tests a lot, but I'm not sure what the scores are used for.

References here.

Jim said at November 14, 2014 6:11 AM:

Black Death - Correct me if I'm wrong but I was under the impression that private schools are not allowed in Germany.

US white students do quite well in comparison with the rest of the world. They are about at the aggrgate level of Singapore. So while no doubt they lag the Singapore Chinese they are ahead of the Singapore Malays and Indians.

Stephen said at November 14, 2014 4:17 PM:

Dan observed: Can you imagine how different our current leaders would be if they had been educated for wisdom, the way people were taught a hundred years ago?

I've long advocated for the re-introduction of classical education:

  • Grammar, logic and rhetoric to teach critical thinking.
  • History and philosophy to provide perspective and a moral framework.
  • Science and arithmetic to build the world.
Black Death said at November 15, 2014 6:46 PM:

Jim -

Private schools are permitted in Germany. Home schooling is not allowed.

Mike Street Station said at November 18, 2014 8:12 AM:

@Black Death: I wish testing in the US was used in a practical way the way it is in Germany. The US spends lots of money on education, but because we will not admit to ourselves that all students are not created equal, much of it is wasted. Simply tracking students by ability and assigning them work appropriate to their abilities would be good for schools and good for students, but it's still a bridge too far for the US to accept.

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