This is a transcript I’ve done on the following interview from CNBC .
I’ve featured an article on my website which also discusses this as part of another issue. I think the significance and importance of the salient points in this interview should be known to every teacher, parent and young person out there to inform their decision on how they are framing the quality of their lives and learning around examinations and college admission.
Howard Gardner is one of the leading thinkers on the subject of how children learn so we’ve invited him here as our guest tonight to discuss the value tests like the SATs. A psychologist and educator at Harvard University, Dr. Gardner is the author of 17 books including the latest The Disciplined Mind.
Do you think that taking cultural factors into account is a good thing?
Gardner: At first brush I like these ideas very much basically it’s an attempt to even the playing field in making judgments about something as consequential as college admissions.
We know that some people have huge amounts of advantages when they start off because of the wealth of their family, because of the schools they go to and the amount of education at home and so on and other people have huge disadvantages and while at the end of the day it’s true that you get credit for what you can do and not what you can’t do.
When we’re making judgments on people’s potential we really need to see to what extent have they overcome their circumstances or to what extent have they made good uses of them. (their potential).
Anchor : What about the statement in (Jane Well’s piece) there when they said it’s sort of like telling a black student, “Well, you did good for you.” – Isn’t that a bad place to put a striving student?
Gardner : I don’t think so because after all we’re not saying you can’t get the raw score (the actual score that the student received) we’re saying , “In addition we’re going to talk about how you did compared to other people who had the same things going for you.”
In a sense it’s like a zipcode. If you tell me somebody’s zipcode, I can give you a pretty good prediction on how they’re going to do on a college board test. ….(because of the amount of resources available to people in Beverly Hills versus other less privileged areas). And this is just giving us a more objective way of saying, “Well, how well did this student do compared to other people who had the same amount of resources that the student did.”
Anchor : …..I think back on the days when I had to memorize all the dates in history class and wondered, “When the heck am I ever going to need those” – Is the problem, instead of teaching children how to learn and fostering their intelligence, we concentrate more on drilling them with facts, facts, facts
Gardner : Well the more the test is a very specific kind of test and the more it has high stakes, the more teachers and parents are inevitably going to train the child to do well in the tests – its common sense. So of course the quality of the tests becomes very, very important.
In thinking about the SATs this evening, I thought it would be very nice to have a country or schools where you could have an entirely new version of tests each year so that nobody could just prepare for that particular test.
Anchor : That’s fascinating………!
Gardner: So for example, you want to know how well a student is reading, because that’s very important to know, you wouldn’t know from one year to the next whether you were going to have (this or that) test so that there could be no possible way that anybody could practice for a particular version of a particular test but if a student did pretty well on this randomly chosen reading test you could be pretty confident they could read well.
Anchor : I wonder why they don’t do that…….???
Gardner : I can tell you why they don’t do it. Because when they do bring in a new test the scores will go back down again. I remember looking at the test scores (at Chicago several years ago) and noticing that it would go up for awhile and then go back down – and the answer became clear to me that (they) were introducing new kinds of tests where the students were not ready for it.
There’s a very big risk to teaching to tests …. ………It’s funny (the SATs)………20 years ago the ETS said “You can’t drill for this…this is somehow an assessment of your true intellectual potential. Then places like Stanley Kaplan and the Princeton Review showed that you could raise the points, 100,200,300 and now ETS says we can show you how to get better for the tests as well.
– So we have to be very, very careful to assume that any kind of measure isn’t something that can be drilled for and get much better for.