Testing, Testing

Flickr:Casey Serin

Speaking of test prep. A reader responded to me by email today about Debbie Stier's quest to ace the SAT and to motivate her son to do well so he's accepted to the best college.

The reader wrote: "For any student considering college, the key is not the right test prep or cramming for the SAT/ACT but just applying oneself throughout school... There's a very pronounced 'something for nothing' culture in the United States and my concern is that efforts like this only serve to further promote that. 'How I do in grades 9-12 doesn't matter so much if I can just get the right test prep tutor.'"

At his TEDxNYED talk recently, Will Richardson, a longtime educator and now a professional development consultant, brings up a similar point -- but takes it much further. "If you want test prep, you don't need schools," he says, because everything you need can be found online, just as Stier, the SAT mom, demonstrates.

Here, we've reached a cross-section of perspectives about testing, some of which overlap:

  • A mother who wants her son to test well in order to get into the best college possible so he can have the best opportunities available to him.
  • An observer who believes the focus should be on the educational journey provided by schools.
  • A longtime educator who believes the current school model, which revolves around testing, is taking all the initiative out of kids.

Because it's the "coolest moment to be a learner right now" -- kids can learn what they want when they want without having to wait for a teacher to teach them -- it's time to think differently about what it means to prepare kids, Richardson says.

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And as with most complicated issues -- those that have ramifications on the future of learning -- this one is not black-and-white.

Watch Will Richardson's TEDxNYED talk:

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