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In Defense of Testing

Political blogger Matthew Yglesias points to a new report showing that nearly half of adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate. In that light, he contends, it's hard to argue against the need for standardized testing in schools:

Under those circumstances, I find it difficult to be seized with worry that schools are going to be ruined by teachers "teaching to the test" too much. It is true that school districts that have started taking testing more seriously now need to step up and also take the possibility of outright cheating more seriously. But the fact that huge numbers of kids are passing through school systems and not learning basic literacy drives home the fact that districts also need to take checking to see if the kids are learning anything more seriously. That means tests, and since it's good to be able to compare different schools to one another that means standardized tests. It's a limited tool, it shouldn't be the sole criterion on which the effectiveness of anything is measured, but it's also an important one.
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