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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Testing: Not a Reliable Predictor of Future Success

I see more and more organizations (schools and corporations) reaching toward "tests" as the answer for effectively screening employees and determing success. I think tests (assessments) are an inaccurate and artifical way of measuring competence. Actually, some of the best students I have had did not do well on tests but they were creative, entergetic and full of great ideas, not to mention hard working. They just weren't good on tests.

However, as a nation we are moving toward tests and assessments as a validation of knowledge and future potential...not good.

Here is an excerpt from Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning on the topic of tests. Based on a true story, it explains that tests don't always work.
I was getting desperate for some money the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college. I couldn't find a job anywhere. Rent was due, no food in the fridge, It was bad. I even considered canceling my cable subscription. Finally I learned of an opening for a cashier at a branch of a national drug store chain. It was my last resort.

Securing the position was not easy. The interview process was intense. It involved a battery of tests; psychological, drug, and mathematical. I did satisfactorily on all three and was hired. Finally, I had a job. It lasted three days.

The first day, after the end of my shift, the amount of money in my drawer compared to the amount indicated by the register tape was off by five cents. Not bad for a beginner. The second day it was $2.50 and the third day it was closer to $5.00. I left voluntarily.

The problem…doing math under pressure. Sure I could do the math on a paper and pencil test when I didn’t have fifteen people in line waiting to buy lottery tickets and tooth paste without exact change. But calculating change in a pressure situation… I got flustered and gave the wrong amount. Some people would tell me and some people would keep the extra change—so much for the math and psychology tests.
So when people tell me tests are the answer to increasing performance and productivity and that they are necessary to "measure" learning...forgive me if I snicker just a little.

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