Correct Answers Are So Passé

(Guest Post by James Shuls)

In a recent interview, Douglas McCollum, senior vice president and general manager of education publishing company Pearson was asked, “What’s wrong with the way that we do K-12 assessment now?” His response:

We are going from the world of No Child Left Behind, where all of the assessments were objective, multiple-choice items, very cut-and- dry. They really don’t demand as much from students. [They’re] not really demanding that you be able to write, demonstrate your thinking skills, and so forth.

You know, I’ve often said to myself, “The problem with these tests is that their all too objective. What we need is a little subjectivity.” It seems I’m not alone. When asked what testing will look like in five years, McCollum responded:

It’s really all about being able to demonstrate your process of thinking. It’s about types of assessments that don’t necessarily have right or wrong answers, but that ask that students be able to defend a position. We’re moving more towards performance tasks, higher-order thinking, synthesis, comparisons.

I too have often thought that getting the right answer was so passé. After all, everyone knows that having the correct thinking is where it’s at. Although, what happens if I have the right answer with the wrong thinking?



James Shuls is the education policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute

6 Responses to Correct Answers Are So Passé

  1. Briana LeClaire says:

    “(W)hat happens if I have the right answer with the wrong thinking?”

    Not possible because there are no right answers . . . maybe you need a refresher course.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Granted, there are silly people who don’t want to think in terms of right and wrong answers. Nonetheless, we do have a problem currently with measurement of school performance being limited only to the small range of academic outcomes that can be measured by bubble tests. Consider the possibility that judging schools solely on academic results may degrade our moral character:

    Ultimately we have to develop measures of school success not limited by today’s boundaries.

  3. Briana LeClaire says:

    At least now schools and students are being measured by something, even if the multiple-guess measuring stick is far from ideal. The idea that the vast majority of today’s College of Education majors will be able to measure “performance tasks, higher-order thinking, synthesis, comparisons” in any meaningful way is ludicrous.

    This is why we’ve been a K12 virtual academy family for eleven years. Our teachers are expert consultants in how to best reach the three very different learners in our household. The content, on the other hand, is explained by my husband, me, and other moms and dads at our co-op. Today’s nursing profession is ideal for comfortable, name-your-own-hours part-time work; we recruit those virtual academy moms to be our co-op science teachers.

  4. Lynn Woodworth says:

    I wonder if Pearson applies the same philosophy to the states when they pay for their tests. “Well, they paid us $2,000,000 less than we agreed, but they used to proper process to fill out the check.” Somehow I think they will insist on the correct answer on that one.

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