February 22, 2009

Improving School and Spending Less

Last week, Tricia had a good post (as usual) responding to an article by Jay Matthews. It was about ways to improve schools without spending much. Good ideas, all. Replace homework with free reading. Promoting more trade nonfiction reading in high school. Make a national reading holiday.

One idea I think would not only not cost much, but would actually save us thousands of hours of instructional time, not to mention many millions of dollars would be to cut back on the amount of testing we're doing.

"For those who argue that we need standardized tests in order to compare student achievement over time and to compare subgroups of students, we already have a good instrument for this, the NAEP. The NAEP is administered to small groups of children, who each take a portion of the test, every few years. Results are extrapolated to estimate how the larger groups would score. No test prep is done, as the tests are zero stakes: There are no (or should be no) consequences for low or high scores. If we are interested in a general picture of how children are doing, this is the way to do it. If we are interested in finding out about a patient’s health, we only need to look at a
small sample of their blood, not all of it." --Stephen Krashen

It's time to seriously scrutinize every test and see if it's worth the massive amounts of time and money we're putting into them.

(image cc from flickr)