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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: testing

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May 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Too much focus on short-term results hurts schools, report says

With the state testing season well underway across Washington, testing has been a focus of the Education Lab blog this week.

On Wednesday, we reported on an effort by Garfield High teachers in Seattle to improve the classroom assessments they give and consider whether those assessments might eventually replace many of the standardized tests their students take. Earlier this week, we wrote about Gildo Rey Elementary in Auburn, a high poverty school that has succeeded in helping nearly all its students pass state reading and math tests.

Today, we return to a report we filed away back in October, when it was first published.

The authors, two Boston College professors, argue that schools that put too much emphasis on the yearly ups and downs in test results may experience the same problems that businesses do when they concentrate too much on short-term gains: Employees try to game the system, and the organization’s overall success can suffer.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: assessment, testing

January 23, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Guests: New GED test fails to measure skills that matter most

America’s largest high school is not a building but a test. The General Educational Development test is a seven-hour exam that allows high school dropouts to show they are equivalent to high school graduates. GED certificates account for 12 percent of high school diplomas issued in the U.S. Can a test replace four years of high school?

James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries and Tim Kautz

James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries and Tim Kautz

In a 2011 study, the GED Testing Service found that within six years of earning a GED, about 40 percent of GED recipients enroll in college — but most drop out within a year. Only about 1 percent earns a bachelor’s degree.

So this year they are launching a new, more difficult test, partly because of the difference between GED recipients and high school graduates when it comes to outcomes that matter. By looking beyond other test scores and evaluating the GED program using outcomes like educational attainment, the GED Testing Service has made a major stride. But will the new test be a better predictor of these outcomes?

Based on our work in a new book, “The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life,” we argue that it will not. The test is being changed under the notion that it measures the right skills but in the wrong quantities — in other words, that passing the old GED did not require enough scholastic ability.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: dropouts, ged, standardized tests