Bashing standardized testing is a popular exercise in many circles, and the defenders of testing tend to focus on the ways it can provide an objective measure of teacher performance or identify topics on which student knowledge is still shaky (i.e., "data driven instruction"). The October 7th issue of the New Republic (alas, not available online except for subscribers) has a defense of testing with a whole different spin. In "Test our children well: More exams = smarter kids" Ezekial Emanuel touts tests as a learning tool. Emanuel describes 100 years of research that documents beyond a shadow of a doubt that "[i]n the act of measuring students, you can actually affect how much knowledge they absorb and how well they retain it." Given this powerful "testing effect," Emanuel doesn't think there is sufficient classroom testing and speculates that the reason is that devising tests is too time-consuming.
The testing effect has been on NCTQ's radar screen recently as we've begun to examine what teacher candidates learn about the instructional strategies for which there is the most solid research support. From what we've found about teacher prep to date (which is that in their treatment of assessment, the vast majority of its ed psych and "curriculum and instruction" courses and textbooks don't even mention the testing effect), there's a lot more behind any possible scarcity of classroom testing than teachers' busy schedules. Know some teachers? Help them do their demanding jobs more effectively by springing for the cost of copies of this magazine issue -- only $4.99 each for an introduction to one of the most powerful ideas in teaching.