• Testing takes too much time.
  • There is too much pressure to teach to the test.
  • Tests measure limited aspects of a student.
  • Ignores standard error of measurement.
  • Increases anxiety and stress

I don’t think I even have to write an introductory sentence for this post – if I did, it would be something like, “The way group testing is done now creates a lot of problems.”  It’s become almost cliche to say that No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on testing has created a lot of headaches and hassles.  The testing emphasis and the accompanying problems have been shared by other countries.  Research has been mounting in support of the overwhelming mountain of testimonies from educators, and even the general media at large has joined the bandwagon.  (For example:  CBS news story; Boston Globe article; UK Daily Telegraph study story)   Everyone agrees that accountability is a good thing, and there’s only one way to measure how our children are learning.  Well, actually, there’s something wrong with that last part… There is another way.  Individual testing.

I’ll go ahead and get my bias out of the way, because I am a diagnostician.  I test students for speech and language competency in order to decide special education eligibility, and to help provide planning for appropriate speech and language therapy.  I work with a team of other diagnosticians serving 13 school districts.  Most students that we test receive IQ and educational testing, and probably two-thirds get speech and language testing.  I am not exaggerating when I say that when we finish testing a child parents, teachers, and the students themselves know the tested child like never before.  We can tell exactly what’s wrong, and exactly how to fix it.  Individual testing trumps group testing in so many ways.  Individual testing specifically…

  • takes less time with greater accuracy.
  • is impossible to teach to the test.
  • We can measure any educationally relevant aspect of the student that we want.
  • frustrated test takertakes special circumstances into account.
  • has less anxiety.

Additionally, individual testing …

  • specifically measures progress (or lack of) in very specific areas.

That’s the only bullet there, but its important enough to merit its own list.  Put another way, this means that when we are able to test kids this way, we can determine exactly what a student knows, and what a student should know, but doesn’t.  We can also tell what’s developmentally appropriate for each student to learn next.

So why don’t we just test each kid individually then?  Well, it would require a lot of change – change sparked and implemented by bureaucrats in an educational system who would only do so in response to mandates from politicians in a government who would only mandate in response to political pressure which would require much greater media attention.  As the ongoing attempt to overhaul health care has demonstrated, real change in our country is often extremely difficult.  Especially systematic change.  And even when the need for change is obvious.