Thursday lettters: Classroom tests due a review

January 2, 2014 

20000713 TESTING


— As veteran of 40 years in the classroom, I support the call of Regina Labrew for a comprehensive teacher-review system in South Carolina’s public schools (“Teacher-evaluation system will help give our kids the best,” Dec. 5). At the same time I would like to suggest adding a new component to the evaluation process: an examination of the testing instruments employed in grading student performance.

It is common for education reformers to target areas such as teacher compensation, professional preparation, instructional strategies and student test scores. However, I cannot recall a single reform-minded proposal that would scrutinize the testing materials designed by classroom teachers.

My experience is that multiple-choice exams are relatively easy to write, simple to administer and grade, but ultimately not very useful for pinpointing student deficiencies or helping to correct them. The most valuable tests require students to confront a problem and work toward a solution. Of course, such exams are difficult and time-consuming to grade.

I also wonder how many quizzes and exams are designed not by the classroom teacher but by a nameless “course coordinator” who oversees multiple sections of a single course or by the textbook publisher.

The time has come for us to examine how our students are being evaluated throughout the school year. Taking a look at the entire spectrum of tests is a good place to start.

Ed Aylward


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