Load Road #2: what is measured is what is taught



All ‘high stakes' examinations are based on ‘blueprints' that reflect prevailing opinion about what is most critical to measure at that juncture. For the most part those opinions come from immediate stakeholders with first order involvement, and therefore vested interests, in the test contents: the test makers, the educators and those involved in the educational hierarchy (deans, principals, administrators). Invariably, that blueprint shapes the educational curriculum prior to the test. Teachers want students to do well on the tests (they look better, so does the school). Students want to do well on the tests not least because of the career and debt defining consequences. So everyone's attention is on the KSAs (knowledge, skills and attitudes) defined in the test blueprint.

Is there anything wrong with this picture?

Advocates describe this isomorphism in positive terms. Alignment between the curriculum and the testing is described as an ideal to be achieved. This accomplishment, they claim, lends scientific objectivity to teaching and learning.

It is also absurdly technocratic and reductionist. Teachers and students have little option other than to narrowly focus on and produce the target performances defined by the skeins of pre-identified objectives which form the blueprint. Students get better and better at less and less; the larger picture gets lost as does any sense of evolution in the expectations or definitions of success. Furthermore, what about the interests of those in the world on the other side of the high stakes examination: the clients, the colleagues, the managers and the public at large? Shouldn't testing reflect what is required for success in next step real situations especially in those undergoing rapid change?

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