The goal is to have curious and creative students who can function in life…”

From the article Wrong Answer, published in The New Yorker edition dated July 21, 2014, concerning organized cheating, by teachers and administrators, on standardized tests in Atlanta schools:

John Ewing, who served as the executive director of the American Mathematical Society for fifteen years, told me that he is perplexed by educators’ ”infatuation with data,” their faith that it is more authoritative than using their own judgment. He explains the problem in terms of Campbell’s law, a principle that describes the risks of using a single indicator to measure complex social phenomena: the greater the value placed on a quantitative measure, like test scores, the more likely it is that the people using it and the process it measures will be corrupted. “The end goal of education isn’t to get students to answer the right number of questions,” he said. “The goal is to have curious and creative students who can function in life.” In a 2011 paper in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, he warned that policymakers were using mathematics “to intimidate—to preëmpt debate about the goals of education and measures of success.”

The article referenced is available online – Mathematical Intimidation: Driven by the Data – and is an interesting exploration of the concept of “value-added modeling” in educational testing.

So much of the educational agenda over the last school year was consumed with public discussion of the December 2013 release of PISA test results for the Islandaround the Home and School table as much as anywhere else – that it’s helpful to gain context about how testing is conducted, how the results are interpreted and reported, and whether or not they are of value for making practical decisions about educational policy.


Robert Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on August 21, 2014 - 16:14

I regret that school is nearly all about the test now - thinking is not required

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on August 22, 2014 - 15:39

The book PISA School Factors Related to Quality and Equity Results from PISA 2000, which is a free(ish) download from Google Books, takes a look at the PISA testing in 2000 as regards “school factors” and how they affect the testing; from the introduction:

Are there some school factors that are more closely associated with higher performance than others? What effect do the policies and structure of education systems have on educational outcomes? Among the school factors that are easily amenable to policy makers, such as management strategies, which seem to produce the best performance outcomes? There is a rich body of research in educational effectiveness that has highlighted factors at different levels of the education system that appear to be more closely associated with higher performance. To help build an evidence base, this report maps the data from PISA 2000 to those aspects of school context, school inputs and school processes that have received empirical support in different strands of educational effectiveness research.

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