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Aiming at the Wrong Target

Of all the bad concepts imposed on American education by No Child Left Behind, the worst is the idea that testing equals learning.

That everything worth learning can and should be assessed using a standardized, multiple-choice test.

That little box of important knowledge expanded recently when science was added to the NCLB mix, a move that some “experts” are claiming will “spark a resurgence of science in the classroom”.

Probably in the same way that the reading tests have inspired student reading and math tests have increased their understanding of that subject.

Oh, but we haven’t reached the bottom of the testing barrel yet.

Now we have a group who wants a test to assess students’ technology literacy.

Technology classes like this are entering the curriculum in schools around the country, but they’re not common enough, say educators, company executives, and policymakers. In a bid to make technology literacy more widespread, the National Assessment Governing Board this month announced plans to develop the first nationwide assessment of technological learning in U.S. schools. NAGB [National Assessment Governing Board], a government-commissioned independent council, awarded nonprofit WestEd, a 40-year-old educational research and service group, a $1.86 million contract to work with educators, school officials, the business community, and the public on constructing the test, set to hit schools in 2012.

Those “technology classes” described in the article sound more like students are learning design, engineering, programming, all subjects that should be a fundamental part of the K12 curriculum.

All of them topics that should use technology as the tools to make it happen, not as the object of instruction.

As with NCLB, the sponsors of this misguided idea believe their test will produce instructional miracles.

NAGB officials and others hope the test will help reverse the slide in U.S. test scores and enrollment in such subjects as science, math, and engineering, and ultimately address the more generally waning competitiveness of the U.S. in technology.

Not too long ago, the state of Virginia gave our 5th and 8th graders a technology test every spring.

It was little more than a vocabulary test and did absolutely nothing to improve the “technology literacy” (whatever that is) of our kids, with questions not unlike the samples provided by the creators of this 21st century version.

One question asked whether sonar was most often used by bats, snakes, police, or air-traffic controllers. The correct answer is bats. Another asked which machinery part should be used to give something the greatest ease of service: welded joints, epoxy resin, rivets, or threaded screws. The right answer? Screws.

In the end, proposing a test to improve student technology skills makes no sense at all.

Technology is a tool that can – and should – be used to make learning the essential life skills faster, easier, better.

Making it the object of instruction is aiming at the wrong target.

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2 Comments

  1. I also saw that article and was appalled. Then I thought that they will probably want to test teachers too. I agree that it is ridiculous. Why take the fun out of learning?

  2. I would welcome a test as soon as they start paying for the proper technology in each district.

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