I have spent years coaching students to take the pressure off sitting down with that test booklet and blank scantron. I tell them that the best thing about taking a multiple choice test is that the makers have given them the answer. Sure, you have to figure out which one of the four or five choices is the correct one, but it's there. It's a gift, right? Unless you happen to be one of those nervous types who starts to freeze up when they sit down in that way-too-quiet room. Or maybe they are the apathetic sort who wants to get done quick because there is a word search waiting for them if they make some crazy pattern out of the dots on the paper in front of them. Some will tell you that there is a discernible path those darkened circles make, others will tell you, "When in doubt, pick C." That was my son. I guess I can't really argue with that.
But our President might. He is suggesting that we, as educators, should take a step back from this form of assessment. "Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble," Mister Obama said in a video released on Facebook. "So we're going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we're not obsessing about testing." He wants to impose a two percent limit on the amount of time students are taking standardized tests in class. At home, in their spare time? Go crazy. Take as many as you'd like.
But if they aren't taking tests, how will we know which kids win? Maybe we could ask them to talk about what they learned. To each other. Maybe they'll understand it even better. We'll see.