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Winds of Change in the Assessment World?

by Kathleen Blake Yancey

Sometimes signs of change are hard to see. I think most of us, if asked about assessment and testing, would say pretty much the same thing: we have more tests and more bad tests than ever before. And what’s worse is that such tests—in the time they take away from teaching and in the messages they send to students about what’s important and what’s not—prevent us from helping students as we could.

This fall, visiting with preservice teachers in Michigan and with practicing teachers in Pennsylvania, I heard the same story over and over again. In fact, we’re not alone in this view. Writing in The New York Times, for example, Brent Staples voices the kind of sentiment we do when he says in referring to the testing industry, “What we need now is a revolution in writing instruction, not just another test prep exercise.” Such a revolution, of course, won’t happen as long as regressive tests dominate the educational landscape.

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