Test Focused On Thinking May Be Difficult To Grade (310)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Students may find Tennessee’s new achievement tests next year more difficult to take.

 And teachers may find them more difficult to grade, the head of a University of Tennessee teacher training program said Tuesday.

 State officials this week announced that achievement tests in Tennessee public schools will be changed next year to favor analytical thinking over memorization.

 Dr. Ken Monty, who heads UT’s Academy for Teachers of Math and Science, said that’s a good idea and the national trend.

 However, current tests often are presented in formats such as multiple-choice, which are easily checked or graded by machines, he said. Analytical thinking tests have open-ended questions. Teachers, not machines, must assess a student’s thinking skills.

 Better teacher training and new tools such as interactive computer testing programs are keys to grading these tests effectively, Monty said.

The UT academy which he heads has provided training in these and other areas for about 750 grade school teachers and administrators since 1991.

 “If the test only asks students to memorize answers to questions, then the kids will only get good at regurgitating memorized facts,” Monty said. “Having them interact with computers and helping teachers recognize how the students arrives at an answer would be better.

 “The process of how the student arrives at an answer is often much more important than the answer itself.”

 Monty said that if focused and graded properly, the new tests benefit teachers and students more than do current measures.

 “If the test can be devised to demand that students apply what they learn and teachers can recognize how students approach a problem, then we promote both the students learning and teachers teaching,” Monty said.

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 Contact: Dr. Kenneth Monty(423-974-3594)