Student reading abilities are declining. Governments around the world find this decline unacceptable. To counteract this trend, the countries' educational bureaucracies have adopted a bad solution: standardized tests of student achievement. Anyone close to the varied challenges individual students has watched this "solution" take effect destructively. There have been cries for different tests, more diverse standards, more contextual variations in assessment and greater use of individual achievement goals. Most of these cries go unheeded.
As I explored in my last post, test scores are far from a mechanical process. The outcomes of testing procedures get impacted though a vast network of connections. For most students, there are more opposing interests to their improved scores than interests in favor. Applying a mechanical solution to an organic aggregation of interests will predictably backfire.
It seems to me that standardized testing refutes the organic nature of fragile learning ecologies, changing intrinsic motivations and faltering curiosity. They are only appropriate in contexts where there is no need to be self motivated, in school or eventually at work. In those in setting, standardized test scores are merely justifying the distribution of extrinsic rewards disproportionally to actual levels of contribution, growth, or influence. They reduce the vast array of mutual interests to the simple framework of "proven abilities". They make some people into winners at the expense of the rest. They acculturate diverse individuals to endure the abuses of hierarchies, conformity pressures and policy mandated conduct. It's no wonder the majority of the staunch advocates for standardized testing are denizens of governmental bureaucracies.
Most academic environments provide too much structure. They need to provide more open space for learning in order to solve test scores for pattern. When the learners spend more time exploring, migrating, circling back and deepening the adventures, much will change. Their curiosity and self motivation will fluctuate and disappear less often as they are free to follow their interests. They will rely on their self evaluation and the feedback from personal attempts. They will seek coaching from peers and mentors who can see better than themselves what they are doing inadvertently, assuming incorrectly, insisting upon regrettably and forsaking persistently. They will experience their interest in performance evaluation becoming very nuanced, contextualized and considerate of changing pursuits. They will constantly align the ways they evaluate their progress and accomplishments with the natural requirements of their latest adventure.