Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana


July 10, 2013

MARK HEINIG: Forty years of reading and math testing

Is it valuable, worthless or in between?


As teachers and parents, we tried to prepare our children to live in this rapidly changing and very different world. A liberal arts education was relevant in the 1970s. Many college students graduated with liberal arts degrees and found good jobs. The concept of the Renaissance scholar, a well-rounded person able to discuss nearly any subject, made sense. It still does, if we disregard the unpleasant facts that the Renaissance ended a long time ago, and that the liberal arts don’t lead to good jobs nearly as often as they once did. They grow more obsolete every year.

Some ingredients of a liberal arts education are still useful, and we should continue to value them. I’m thinking of the basic skills that we need to learn more advanced things. We keep discovering new information, and nobody can learn it all. We must select a small part of an increasingly specialized body of knowledge. If what we learn keeps changing, how can tests used 40 years ago measure how much we learn now? They can’t.

The NAEP maintains that the reading and math tests are virtually the same as in the 1970s. Even so, the students tested now differ vastly from their predecessors 40 years ago. The same tests may yield comparable data, but that doesn’t guarantee that the data are as useful now. As a beginning teacher, I worked for a principal who thought that well-designed objective tests could measure students’ progress as effectively as subjective tests —those demanding essay or short written answers. I didn’t believe that then, and I don’t believe it now.

We need both kinds of testing. For some subjects, we also need performance tests. An outstanding building-trades teacher once told me that written test grades are useless unless the students taking the test can build a house that doesn’t collapse! He insisted that we must grade his students by evaluating their finished product. Isn’t that the way a free market economy is supposed to work? When my wife and I decided to build a new home, we didn’t choose a builder by asking to see his school report card. We asked to see some houses that he had actually built.

I am certain that the NAEP’s raw data are accurate, but I do wonder if the NAEP is using them properly. Maybe it should also assess how well the test results are applied.

Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana principal and teacher. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • A great way to offer help The United Way of Howard County does so much for this community that it would be difficult, in this space, to describe even a fraction of the things United Way donations accomplish.Think what Kokomo and Howard County would lose if there were no Court

    July 25, 2014

  • MARK HEINIG JR.: Will Pence, Ritz and their playmates ever grow up? Many Hoosier Republicans are curious about Gov. Mike Pence’s future. He probably is, too. Assuming he doesn’t wish to return to Congress or retire from politics, he must decide whether to seek another term as governor of Indiana or run for president

    July 25, 2014

  • LETTERS: Mast homestead celebrates 150 years Mast homestead celebrates 150 yearsThe two-story frame, Pennsylvania-Dutch style house on the Larry and Barbara Hensler farm 2 miles west of Plevna is 150 years old this year. In fact it may even be a little older than that. Lloyd Hensler used to say

    July 25, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Why congressional incumbents keep getting re-elected It’s no news that Congress is unpopular. In fact, at times it seems like the only real novelty on Capitol Hill would be a jump in its approval rating. In June, a Gallup poll found members’ standing with the American people at a historic low for a mid

    July 25, 2014

  • Road must be made safer Eight months ago, the Indiana Department of Transportation opened the new U.S. 31 bypass east of Kokomo. Joining Mayor Greg Goodnight was Gov. Mike Pence. Even the Kokomo High School marching band performed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was the

    July 24, 2014

  • SEN. JIM BUCK: New laws offer help for kids Families with children who have special needs often face difficulties finding the best care or treatment for their specific circumstance. During the 2014 legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly passed several initiatives to assist these fam

    July 24, 2014

  • LETTERS: Christians must stand with Israel 'As Christians we must stand with life' The present conflict in Israel is with Hamas, recognized even in Egypt as a terrorist organization. Recently Hamas formed a unity government with the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. They're now the government in

    July 24, 2014

  • BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ: Youth sports leagues are on troubling decline An important youth development activity is looking to end a recent losing streak. Participation in organized youth sports leagues for baseball, football, basketball and soccer declined by 4 percent between 2008-2012, according to a report in the Wall

    July 24, 2014

  • Keep eye out for kids

    With most local schools welcoming students in a couple of weeks — and Kokomo schools beginning class Aug. 5 (yes, a week from this coming Tuesday) — it’s important for motorists to think about safe driving as children travel to and from school.Law en

    July 23, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 23, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.