Home > Uncategorized > Abandoning Norm Referenced Tests Means Abandoning it’s By-Products

Abandoning Norm Referenced Tests Means Abandoning it’s By-Products

September 18, 2018

I just finished reading Diane Ravitch’s post titled “The Obsolete and Costly American Faith in Testing“. The post draws from an Education Week article by Alyson Klein which calls for a more holistic approach to testing… but her article falls short of what is really needed, which is a total and complete abandonment of any effort to use tests and data to rank and rate individual students and schools.

As I noted in a comment I left on Ms Ravitch’s post, the faith in norm-referenced testing is rooted in our need to compare. As parents, if we worried less about how our child was doing compared to our neighbor’s child we wouldn’t be testing for anything: we would, instead, be celebrating our child’s growth and their unique talents and skills. Instead too many parents obsess over how their child is doing compared to other children and “the norm” and norm referenced tests that yield a bell curve are perfect for doing that. Norm referenced tests were introduced in the 1920s as a means of sorting and selecting children for placement into tracks… and they took hold because we love to compare. If we really believe and expect ALL children to learn, we should abandon norm-referenced tests as a metric… and while we’re at it we should abandon everything associated with norm-referenced tests: tracking; determining “valedictorians”; identifying “gifted and talented” students; and separating out “special education” students. All of these are by-products of norm referencing.


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