Friday, January 15, 2021

Standardized testing problematic

The responsibility of falling college graduation rates does not fall upon the students, but rather overqualified professors — at least that’s what Marky Nemko, a Ph.D in education evaluation, argues in an article he wrote for Time magazine’s website.

Throughout his article, Nemko suggests the intelligence gap between Ph.D-wielding professors and undergraduate students is too great for students to properly learn. Additionally, he said if a student did not have above average grades in high school, he or she should consider an alternative to a college education.

Plattsburgh State Honors Program Director and Anthropology Professor James Armstrong said it makes sense that some Ph.D.s may not make good teachers, but intelligence level is not to blame. Instead, he said it boils down to the teacher’s willingness to teach well.

Armstrong said the problem makes more sense at a big-name research university where professors are more interested in research than teaching. But at colleges like PSUC, he noted that there is more of an emphasis on teaching.

“That isn’t to say every college professor here is a great teacher, but it is to say most people here care about teaching,” Armstrong said. “At a school like this, most Ph.D.s who work here are mostly good teachers.”

Rather than looking at college education solely from a classroom standpoint, Armstrong said there are multiple other factors that contribute to a student’s college learning experience, and students should grow from what they learn from activities outside the classroom.

“College is multi-dimensional,” Armstrong said. “They take the attitude that learning is instrumental — that the whole purpose of going to college is to learn stuff for a job. That is not what college is about. That is not what college should be about. If that is the direction college goes, we’re doomed.”

Armstrong blames the nation’s overemphasis on standardized testing in primary and secondary education as to why some students put their entire focus on class work within their majors. He added that it’s difficult for students to transition from a grade school routine of answering questions to a college environment where they are more encouraged to ask the questions.

“That is a difficult transition to make,” he said. “Test-driven education in secondary education is a disaster. It’s reductive. It doesn’t broaden a person’s perspective, it narrows it.”

Mark Beatham, associate professor of teacher education, said professors need to be able to think like their students in order to teach, and the gap between students and professors is more cultural than it is intelligence.

Beatham also echoed Armstrong’s concerns with revolving high school education around testing, saying they measure a student’s intellectual value too early in his or her life and closes potential opportunities.

“One of the worst criticisms of education whether its college or high school is that we too often teach children to give themselves a price before they understand their value,” Beatham said. “I think it’s a diminished sense of human possibility.”

Email Brian Molongoski at

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