Amanda Ripley

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A Round-the-World Guide to Kids, Tests & Scapegoats

21st Oct 2011 posted in Education

Here’s a little screed I wrote about testing in Finland and other countries for NBC’s Education Nation blog, the Learning Curve. As Congress debates a rework of No Child Left Behind and our own culture of testing, it’s worth considering what really matters.

Before Jesus Christ was born, human beings were taking tests. Civil service exams date back to China’s Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD.) Hiring test-prep tutors - and cheating - go back about as far, by the way.

U.S. students now take more standardized tests than ever. Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, our kids get tested in grades three through eight, and at least once between tenth and twelfth grade.

Have we lost our minds? Many teachers and critics of school reform insist that we have, citing other, higher-performing nations as evidence of our relative insanity…

First of all, let’s be clear: Finland does have standardized testing. They have had it for at least 159 years. They have less of it, for sure. (Which is not to suggest that they have less testing overall, but more on that later.) In fact, in every high-performing nation, tests are embedded in the wiring of schools - particularly in high schools. In the developed world, 76 percent of students attend high schools that use standardized tests, according to the OECD.

Read more here.