LETTER: Teaching and the test

I used to tell my college students, "I teach you, I don't learn you." What I was trying to get across to them is that learning is a personal activity, not a spectator sport. Scientific research has shown that in order to commit something to long-term memory, the thing has to be repeatedly thought about, placed in a familiar context and related to as many other memories as possible. This translates into mental work by the learner. So what does this have to do with tests?

Tests used to measure "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) in public schools are thought to reveal what students have learned. In fact, the creators and sellers of such tests do not claim that the tests will accurately reveal what the test-taker knows. What we have in much of the U.S.A. is a process that in essence determines the quality of automobiles by measuring the ability of drivers to operate those vehicles. Measuring teaching is very different from measuring learning.

How can we believe that test given one day in the spring to students is an accurate, much less adequate, way of determining what happens in the classroom or in the student's brain day after day?

--Julius Hayden