Why Tests?

I’ve been thinking a lot about final assessments, and assessment in general, lately.

If we started education today, with no knowledge of what has happened in the past, would we still have tests?  Tests confined to two hours?  Tests full of multiple choice questions? Tests with questions intended to trick students?  Tests where we expect students to memorize things word for word?  Tests strictly with paper and pencil?  Test where collaboration equals cheating?

Today, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would use a test as an assessment method, if they had never heard of or seen a test before.

It seems to me that all teachers know that there are better ways to assess out there.  But, come exam time, everyone seems to give an exam (Not really everyone, I know a lot of good people are doing a lot of good things to try to go against this norm).  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that Saskatchewan was increasing standardizing testing today.

What I’m struggling with most: Why have tests survived over time the way they have?

Is it because they are easy?  Is it because we feel the need to have something that gives us a simple number to contribute to a grade?  Is it because we’re too uncreative to come up with other ways?  Is it because the public is resistant to the change?  Is it because students need to be able to take a SAT-like test to be successful in the future?  Is it because they need to be able to take tests in college/university?   Is it because we need to collect data?  Is it because it’s the only way to assess the curriculum we are required to follow?

I could go on and on, but any possible explanation I come up with doesn’t outweigh the need for meaningful, authentic assessment for our students.  They’re the whole reason we even have an education system, right?

Am I missing something here?

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