Testing ad nauseam ineffective

Candidates for teaching in Ohio schools must successfully complete a series of tests before they even enter a classroom as professional educators. Over the past few years, teacher candidates had to pass an ETS (Educational Testing Service) product called ”Praxis 1” prior to attempting upper division education courses. This usually happened in the student’s second year of college.

This testing instrument has three components: reading, writing and math. The components suggest that education is still based on the three R’s (readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic) and hasn’t changed much. Then, prior to college graduation, the student had to pass another ETS product called ”Praxis 2” which was more subject focused.

However, this year the State of Ohio is ”raising the bar” on both these tests. Praxis 1 is being replaced by Praxis Core, and Praxis 2 is being replaced by a non-ETS instrument, the Ohio Assessments for Educators, which is a Pearson Company product.

Some students in college will not have to attempt the Praxis Core if they either have posted high scores on a college entrance test or have earned a high grade point average in their college classes. The writing component of Praxis Core is a longer and much more difficult assessment instrument than the Writing part of Praxis 1.

Readers can learn more about each testing service at www.ets.org and www.pearsonassessments.com. Links can also be found attached to this story at tribtoday.com.

Ohio is apparently shifting from a not-for-profit company to a for-profit company to test its future teachers.

I am not anti-testing. I believe that test results can be part of a determination for many aspects of life, including education and teaching. I am just not convinced that the results of a written test should be the single determinant of a person’s teaching future.

Here is a simple comparison: Passing the written portion of the driver’s license process just gains a permit; the privilege of driving is not earned until the person actually drives on real roads with a real Highway Patrol Officer.

Similarly, during college, prospective teachers had to successfully complete student teaching under the guidance of both a cooperating teacher at a school and a university instructor who assessed these collegians. These students had already passed many written tests in various classes on campus.

This system was not good enough (possibly because it did not involve multi-million dollar companies which could fill the pockets of some state-level officials, both elected and bureaucratic types hovering around Columbus). Some detractors claimed that it was too subjective since humans made the decisions. Testing would be more objective.

The tests, with a pre-determined pass / fail rate, would sift out the candidates so humans need not worry about objectivity.

That is the theory sold by the testing companies, I guess. Probably most of the students who pass the initial tests in college possess those qualities of character that we value in our children’s teachers: knowledge, empathy, clarity, responsibility and compassion.

However, I worry about some who pass and some who do not.

No written test assesses those human characteristics previously mentioned. So some who do not possess these qualities, pass the test. However, some with those qualities might fail the test, be barred from further educational classes in college, and never become teachers.

From time to time, I instruct a class at YSU for future teachers who have some writing difficulties. Each time I teach this course, I meet one or two students who struggle with the writing requirements of standardized tests. These are students who appear to possess great humanity and are nurturing young adults; however, they can’t seem to place apostrophes and commas in the right places consistently. They are outstanding human beings; they are merely average writers.

When a child has a medical emergency in a class, whom would we want to be the adult at the front of the room? Would we want the responsible and caring person who would make the right decisions? Or would we want the well-versed person who might not handle emergencies well, but can certainly describe them excellently on a written report?

The State of Ohio has made that subjective decision for us.

Williams is a Hubbard resident. Email him at editorial@tribtoday.com.