Noam Chomsky – Dangers of Standardized Testing

“Not everything important is measurable and not everything measurable is important.”
Elliot Eisner, Educator

In this short video (under 7 1/2 minutes), Noam Chomsky very neatly summarises what's wrong with today's obsession with standardized testing and the harm that it's doing in school systems, individual schools and at the level of the individual teacher and student.

For those who might want the interview in written form, the link is here:
Creative Systems Thinking - Noam Chomsky

Experience tells us, throughout the world, that when these standardized systems of assessment are challenged the people who defend them are the children who performed highest (or expected to) and their parents under the rigid system. They happen to be the children who have figured out how to 'play the game' of giving testers what they want and are happy for their A grades to just keep rolling in without any real effort. However, I would argue that even they are failed by the standardized system as they don't get stretched to fulfill their potential or challenged to go ahead of where they are. More formative assessment processes focus more on momentum and progress forwards for each and every student.

Probably the biggest hurdle to getting real, across the board, effective change is that the testing industry is now vast and highly profitable. I've seen suggestions that in the US alone the revenues from testing are around one and half times the revenues earned by cinema box offices. This is a powerful force with strong political connections that is determined to spread their approach throughout the world. A further challenge comes in those places where the teachers see their lives as easier where there is standardized testing and therefore don't speak up. Administering some multiple choice based exams developed by an external party takes far less effort than engaging mentally and continuously with the formative process of figuring out for each and every student in the class what they need, where they need to go and how they need to learn to progress from where they are.

We know there's something wrong when the teachers and learning have become subjugated to the testing, instead of the other way around. Never mind that the tests fail to give feedback of any real value or merit, especially when it comes to the development of twenty first century competencies and skills. There is very important work to be done in this area by educators throughout the world.

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