The multiple choice academic examination turns 100 this year. It was innovated by a Professor Kelly somewhere on the plains of Kansas. It proved quite exciting to teachers and spread rapidly from classroom to classroom like an early contagion of sniffles in elementary school
One hundred years is a long time, but you won’t see a TV special with celebrities. No cover story on Time. No Google logo animation.
Funny thing about multiple choice tests. They don’t really reveal the depth of knowledge a student may truly possess. Afterall, when in doubt, circle C.
Academic excellence demands more in the 21st Century. It is a challenging world out there and if you are going to master a subject, then more depth in teaching and testing is needed.
In the words of Professor Kelly, “This is a test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.”
A few years later, as President of the University of Idaho, Kelly disowned the idea, pointing out that it was an appropriate method to test only a tiny portion of what is actually taught and should be abandoned. The industrialists and the mass educators revolted and he was fired.
The SAT, the single most important filtering device used to measure the effect of school on each individual, is based (almost without change) on Kelly’s lower-order thinking test. Still.
The reason is simple. Not because it works. No, we do it because it’s the easy and efficient way to keep the mass production of students moving forward.
Our scientists and technology masterminds are solving all kinds of challenges when it comes to products and services that have profit potential in the marketplace.
How about some of our better minds be put on the task of evaluating students in manners that matter? I hear complaints all over Florida that the teachers are encouraged to teach kids those subjects that are only on the FCAT exams.
Students have little time or energy to search, experiment, and dream while in school anymore. Ideas were meant to flow like a mountains stream, cascading and moving into young minds so they develop far more than pat answers to standardized testing.
School must also build confidence, encourage creativity, mold free thinking, develop logic, demonstrate ethics, and much more.
Tests are important. They do give some measure of knowledge and intelligence. But there have been fewer breakthroughs in the world of testing and we should be much more innovative in the world of education.