More Testing in High School

Another Gewertz goodie (two this week) summarizes a CEP report on high school testing–in short, there’s more.

In its ninth annual examination of high school exit-exam trends, issued today, the Center on Education Policy analyzes a handful of intertwined trends that, taken together, suggest a net increase in testing is taking shape for high school students. [See my story on the report on EdWeek’s website.]

One of the center’s findings, for instance, is a steady increase in the number of states using an exit exam (some kind of test students must pass in order to graduate). Indeed, it finds that three-quarters of the nation’s high school students now live in exit-exam states. Only half did when the CEP did its first exit-exam study in 2002.  Trend lines also point to another thing: More states are using end-of-course tests—tests that cover the material contained in only one course—rather than comprehensive math-and-English exams that might cover years of material.

Near term, the critical issue (as outlined in a great iNACOL report on competency-based education) is that end-of-course exams must be given on demand (or frequently scheduled) to support individual progress models.  This requires that the exams be online, which requires that states plan for high-access environments that eliminate the access argument.
Longer term, states need a flexible assessment framework that incorporates the flood of data to come from content-embedded assessment.  Paper and pencil bubble sheet tests will seem wildly obsolete to kids that grow up learning on netbooks with games, sims, and online performance challenges.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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