On the tradeoff between high-stakes testing and frequent low-stakes testing

Discussion in 'General Education' started by LimaUniformNovemberAlpha, Mar 5, 2021.

  1. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

    Feb 16, 2021
    Likes Received:

    Mar 5, 2021

    Some schools I've been to make the final exam worth half the grade; more if the government sees a discrepancy between general marks and exam marks that suggests the classroom teacher graded too leniently.

    If this were a simple random sample, having only a sample size of one day would be bad enough, given all the factors in why one can have an off day. But it's worse than a simple random sample. A student who barely cares can more easily get a full night's sleep than a student who's anxious enough about it to lose sleep over it. A sleep-deprived mind might breeze through the simple knowledge questions, but struggle more with the analysis questions... the kind of questions that quite frankly seem more meaningful to assess anyway.

    If you need some way to correct for variance among teachers in how leniently they grade, why not make common exams a more routine thing, such as having a common exam for every unit/section/etc? That way you also have routine feedback on what the classroom teacher thinks of how you did vs. what some other teacher assigned to assessing a particular question for a particular region thinks of how you did. It might take a little longer to provide said feedback, but at least they get more of it before the final exam, and at least a little less is hinging on one day's performance that takes until weeks after the school year is over to be assessed.

    We also hear of how it needs to assess how well they remember September content in June. Nonsense. Every unit in any course with its salt can blend content from September with October, then with November, etc... through every unit test, if not section quiz. We have cross-curricular content. I don't think cross-unit content within the same course is a bridge too far. History can have you compare and contrast the Vietnam War with the Iraq War. Chemistry can have you use stoichiometry to determine how many KJs of energy were released per ton of CO2 emitted by the same reaction in thermochemistry. Etc...

    The other side of it I keep hearing is that "real-life jobs" involve one day that's significantly more important than all the others, and the best way to prepare students for this is to give them a taste of it in high school. I disagree with this on multiple levels.

    1. Real life jobs vary from job to job. Some jobs probably do involve more high-stakes days... other jobs are so low in day-to-day variance in how high-stakes they are that making one work day more important than the previous 200 combined would be unthinkable. Why put those who intend to take the latter jobs through the former?

    2. Not everything that's true about "real life jobs" should be emulated in the public sector education system. "Real life jobs" include oil rigs that could blow up at any second. Should this be cited as precedent for taking your students outside where bee sting anaphylaxis might kill them? There's such a thing as bad precedent and education is about lifting people out of poverty, which sometimes means standing up to whatever the workplace wants people to put up with this week rather than just spinelessly pandering to it.

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