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Class, Status and Tests

The Stephen Krashen dialogue in Sunday’s NY Times was good.  Here is the link, though you may need to have purchased online access to the NY Times to view.  If you have the paper itself the dialogue is in the Review section where they post Letters, it was on page two for me.

Below is my letter–which didn’t make it in the NY Times. But never has the idea of innate meritocracy been more powerful–if you aren’t rich and famous it’s either a genetically inferior brain or perhaps laziness, poor values, etc.  that account for it.  At least once upon a time you could be famous and not rich. But they are strongly-linked today;  the top 1% have largely closed the loop-holes that might have once existed in more open times in our recent history.   And tests help the elite 1% out by justifying their elitism!-even though they were once promoted as a way to pick out the rare an talented amongst the unwashed poor. Read below.

“What if it’s even worse than Krashen argues.  Could that be?  What if tests are not measuring even superficial knowledge, but something else entirely–which may also correlate with social class, race, native language and even what makes for a good student in schools that base their measure on test lectures and test scores.  Given that not only do we assess students, and now teachers, but anything related to schooling–be it pedagogy, curriculum, class size, et al—including the content and purpose of schooling itself, it’s worth checking my claim out—just in case I’m right.    The latest issue of The New Yorker (July 2012) has an article on language by Jack Hitt that once again reminds me of how easy it is for writer and reader, speaker and listener to misunderstand each other.  Our testing methods have ordinary psychometric measurement error of considerable impact. The comfort the reader has with the test-authors’ presumptions, language style, vocabulary, etc. counts heavily, as individual interviews with students has confirmed over and over.   Try it. There’s a lot to read that supports this conclusion—which has been written about over and over for the last 45 years!  Start anywhere–if you’re serious about closing achievement gaps, et al.  If you just want to confirm age-old assumptions about intelligence—ignore this conversation.”


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