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Does Testing Motivate Students?

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Here's a story from The Seattle Times that tackles an important question: Does standardized testing motivate students? This year, on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, students passed in much higher numbers than predicted.

"The kids rose to the occasion," [said one superintendent]. "I don't know what else to say. I was just absolutely blown away."

Of course, this was not the case with all students, and some education organizations, including the Washington Education Association, don't believe that WASL scores should determine whether a student can graduate. Still, there are plenty of students and teachers who believe the test does motivate kids to raise the bar on their schoolwork.

After reading the article, it seems to me like the students who were motivated to do better by the WASL were those who were on the cusp of passing, while students who had trouble in school and didn't think a passing score was in reach were further discouraged by the test.

What do you think? Do tests have the power to motivate students? Or do they put too much pressure on kids and end up squelching motivation levels? Does it depend on the student? And if so, is there a way to provide a standardized test that takes that into account?

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Testing is not the answer. All it does is give the "teacher" a basis for determining a grade. And, we all know that grading and grades are circumspect. Rather, a more true measure of learning is when the learner (i.e., the "student" using traditional and aniquated terminology and stereotyping) wants to know more about a topic or issue. This expression of desire for more is an affirmation that the learner has mastered current concepts and material and now wants to move on. In this scenario no test nor grade is necessary. What should be necessary is for the provider (i.e., the "teacher") to have the next level or dimension of concepts and materials readily available to present and apply once the learner expresses the desire to move on.

What we need is a system that is designed to cater to this basal learning behavior and can be applied in real time. Take a look at the definitive treatment "Education in America -- What's to Be Done?" developed by Trigon-International. This commission report presents an end-to-end solution that is actionable and affordable.

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