Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Thursday, May 12, 2005
Maybe we're testing the wrong people
This quarter, I've been taking a class on the history of the development and use of IQ tests. Yesterday, after discussing the possibilities of culture-fair tests and coming to the conclusions that such tests would be very difficult to create for a broad culture, one guy suggested that we stop IQ testing entirely. "What's the point of ranking people instead of making everyone better?"

This idea is, to me, rather revolutionary. But it makes sense on some level. Why do we need to have tests in the first place? Because of bias in teacher evaluations, etc. But isn't that the teacher's fault and not the students' Similarly, No Child Left Behind tries to discern teacher performance by testing the students. But what if one year the teacher gets a high-performing class and the next year the teacher gets a low-performing class?

Maybe we're testing the wrong people. Maybe we should be testing--or peer reviewing, or something--the teachers instead of the students. I think we've all had a teacher who really sucked. Mine was my seventh-grade algebra teacher, who spent a third of the year playing on his computer. We had to have tutoring for a couple years afterwards to undo the damage. And my school district actually cared about our performance. I'm not sure what other school districts would have done. But even the smartest students of my middle school had to go in for tutoring--what about less talented or less motivated students? One bad teacher could set them back for life.

The cultural background of teachers is more homogeneous than the cultural background of their students; ergo, it would be easier to create some sort of testing situations that would be fair to each teacher--teaching various sample classes, or demonstrating their teaching skills to a "peer review" panel, etc. We can't change the student body of the schools, but we can change their teachers.

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