We're enjoying a little back and forth here in Oklahoma as we consider what kind of tests our students will need to take in order to judge whether or not their nine months of involuntary servitude has brought them any benefits.
Oklahoma had been a part of the Common Core curriculum standards adopted by the United States Department of Education and others. But earlier this year, our state legislature and governor decided to jettison those standards, saying that they were not well-suited to Oklahoma schools. Maybe, maybe not; it's been several years since I was deep in the weeds of state education policy and I don't know enough to judge. In any event, the law passed by the legislature and signed by said governor put Oklahoma back on its pre-Common Core standards, acronymically called PASS.
Said governor's Democratic challenger has taken her to task over the move, which has brought about a heavier thumb on the scale from the feds, which will probably cost the state system some money. He omits his own vote against the Common Core standards when they were originally under consideration, but, hey, politics.
Anyway, the fuss and feathers seems to overlook that evaluation is only one purpose of a test. Yes, it measures knowledge known or gained. But it can also be a part of teaching itself, as this note and interview at Big Think points out. Their example is giving students a history test before they have taken a class. Obviously, they will do poorly -- unless they are given access to Wikipedia, in which case they will do abysmally poorly.
But when they see what the test asks for, they will be given hints about what they should pay attention to when the class actually begins. If the test seems to want to know when a lot of things happened, then it would probably be a good idea to note when things happened. If it asks questions about who did things and where they did them, then mastering the activities and locations of key players would be helpful.
This makes sense. I have a memory that may or may not be fully accurate of being given a test at the beginning of a math class sometime in the late elementary/junior high years, and failing to understand even a tenth of what it was asking me. The same test at the end of the class showed a much different mark. Not as different as it probably should have been, but math has ever been my bane. So it would seem that testing may have some use as a teaching tool is not in and of itself completely evil.
I speak, of course, as one who is not a student. They will think tests evil regardless.