Michael Bloomberg on testing

Michael Bloomberg

Here are some quotes from Michael Bloomberg about testing students, with my annotations in italics…

  1. “Many companies (including mine) use tests in hiring.” Really? The hiring ’tests’ for your financial software, data, and media company are multiple choice tests of factual recall and procedural regurgitation?
  2. “Students will face tests throughout their life. They must learn to cope with the emotional stress that comes with the experience.” Just curious: Do your workers cry, get stomach aches, or wet themselves when they face emotional stress in your workplace? (like some of our elementary students do at testing time) If so, must be a fun place to work!
  3. “Test-taking is no one’s idea of fun, but it is part of life.” Quick. Name other areas outside of school and college admissions where taking multiple choice exams and writing short, formulaic essays that are graded in 1-2 minutes are a regular part of life.
  4. “In the ultracompetitive global economy, the U.S. is facing a terrible mismatch between high-skill jobs and our labor pool.” How, exactly, do standardized tests of low-level knowledge lead to high-skill jobs? How, exactly, does an emphasis on low-level thinking work foster higher-level thinkers? What’s your theory of action?
  5. “The biggest threat to American might is not any one country or terrorist group. It is our collective unwillingness to confront mediocrity in our schools.” Many of us ARE confronting mediocrity in our schools. We are confronting the mediocrity of our continued emphasis on assessments of low-level thinking work instead of assessments of critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication and collaboration, and other higher-level skills.
Your thoughts?

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7 Responses to “Michael Bloomberg on testing”

  1. I think there is a place for mc tests in the classroom, because they do allow us to survey student understanding of a large amount of material in an efficient manner. The real problem is that (1) most (American) teachers have not been trained in how to write mc questions that test anything beyond rote memorization (mc questions can test higher levels of knowledge, but it’s difficult and requires time and training) and (2) people stupidly think mc testing is about assigning grades to students when in fact the data is not accurate enough to make definitive evaluations about students. MC tests are good for diagnostic teaching, where the students ability to answer the questions tells us how to TEACH them better: what needs to be taught over because it wasn’t fully absorbed the first time; what can be built upon because students have it now; common student misperceptions (based on which wrong answers were chosen); and which students need extra help. Using item analysis can provide an immense amount of diagnostic information on strengths and weaknesses of the class, individual students, and the teacher, but not one teacher in a hundred accesses that information. All they care about is using mc scores to label students, and to hold up future mc tests as threat to enforce classroom management.
    Administrators who take an interest in student evaluation, who provide even minimal inservice on assessment technique, could turn around the performance of their district in as little as a year, because good assessment improves teaching by putting powerful diagnostic tools in teachers’ hands. I have seen that done repeatedly in Alberta–but have also seen other districts abuse the exact same assessment tools to punish working-class/ESL/Minority students and to control and harass teachers. MC tests are not the problem–using mc scores to sort students rather than to inform teaching is the problem.

  2. I have heard many of these points from people not connected directly with education, and other than citing their own educational experiences, they can rarely give another similar example, as you have posited here. They often refer to college finals and the work v. payoff they felt it represented. I wonder if they think that the typical kindergartener would like to sit some of those tests. I wonder what those people were doing in Kindergarten? I bet it was learning through play and projects.

  3. Scott and Anthony, Are you kidding me, please get real. Testing in the real world, not education, is a reality, why do you assume it’s not? Are you only thinking of menial jobs for entry level positions? In paragraph A, are you asking a question as your question mark would suggest or is it a statement of your findings when verifying Mr. Bloombergs’ companies procedures? “Michael Bloomberg on testing” without the editorial you insert into the blog, brings up many good points, you make fun of his testing by suggesting his tests are merely procedural regurgitation. His high end jobs, what we wish for our students, require testing for critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication and collaboration – oh wait a minute isn’t that what you want? What about accountants, lawyers, I.T. technicians, engineers, stock brokers, etc. These jobs are constantly changing and demand new training and continuing education to remain current. Certifications in these job areas are a necessity to keep your job. Really? Have you applied for a software engineer’s job? How many engineers have you hired lately? Did they work out? That’s the bottom line, did they work out? Were they productive members of your team? Paragraph B and C; Yes, many workers I know have complained of vomiting, agitation, emotional stress and more, in preparation for the tests mandated by their employers, jobs or managers.
    Do we over test our students? Is that your issue? Where are you going with this? Bloomberg seems to me to be an inappropriate target for this conversation. His goal is acquiring a critical-thinking, well-educated, successful workforce for his many companies. You should attack what you seem to know, standardized testing and perhaps focus on “our collective unwillingness to confront mediocrity in our schools.”

    • Demi, let me try again…

      Yes, we are well aware that Bloomberg and other companies have ‘tests’ and other hiring protocols / criteria that they use for incoming employees. But they are not recall and regurgitation. That’s exactly the point we’re making. Bloomberg is advocating for tests for kids that are on the wrong stuff, not the right stuff. If you read my comments in E again, I believe that’s exactly what I stated, isn’t it?

      Also, I’m not sure that vomiting and emotional stress are things for which to advocate…

    • @Demi, yes, they are required to take tests, but are those tests actually reasonable? Do you select a plumber based on his certification tests, or on the work that he has done? Would you trust a standardized test to screen pilots? Testing is reasonable for assessing if a candidate has required background knowledge, but is no replacement for authentic assessment.

  4. I think Mayor Bloomberg has an inflated opinion of assessments. I think it’s ridiculous that folks outside of and far removed from the field of education suddenly have so much insight on the educational process. He can kick rocks.

    “Students will face tests throughout their life. They must learn to cope with the emotional stress that comes with the experience.”

    Dude, wtf???

  5. Testing in schools is always a huge debate, to say the least. However, I like that you included some personal commentary from your history with the subject. I have to say that these standardized tests can definitely be very stressful and, as someone who suffers from anxiety, they can be very difficult to sit through. I understand the logic behind the tests, however, I never performed well on these. I had nearly straight A’s throughout school, but always had just average scores on these tests because it was hard for me to sit through them with my nerves racing. I think that performance in your daily course work should be what is evaluated. Long days of testing do not represent a students overall knowledge.

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