History Test: the Tangled Roots of Standardized Testing

#121 History Test: the Tangled Roots of Standardized Testing

The claim that standardized testing has racist – even eugenicist – roots is oft repeated these days. But is it true? In an episode guaranteed to please no one, friend of the show Ethan Hutt walks us through the multiple and tangled histories of testing. And special guest Akil Bello does a dramatic reading of headlines foretelling doom and disaster should testing wither away.

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One Comment

  1. Great discussion, but I think there are at least two essential things about standardized testing in K-12 US schools that Jack and Ethan missed. The first is purpose; tests are used for different things, and it is essential to differentiate among tests used to monitor the performance of an educational system (like NAEP), tests used to judge whether someone has mastered a body of material (like AP exams), tests used to predict future performance (like SAT, ACT), tests for licensing (like Bar), etc. In those different situations, we probably want to set different standards for accuracy, lack of bias, etc. The second is interpretation; tests are not “good” or “bad” in and of themselves (although they can be more or less accurate, unbiased, etc.), instead it is our use of test information that should be subject to scrutiny. Test X isn’t bad per se, but society’s use of Text X can be appropriate, inappropriate, punitive, etc. The blame should be on the users not the test developers (once minimum standards of quality have been met). And accountability (attaching high stakes to test results) is the critical driver of bad test use and many of the failings noted in the episode.


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