One of the more popular trends in education these days seems to be proficiency testing. The basic idea is that students should be forced to take tests at certain points in their education to prove that they are really learning stuff. In Ohio, there are currently several of these in high school. In addition, these will soon be implemented in mathematics courses at the Ohio State University. It seems like a good idea to make sure that students are earning their degrees/diplomas, right?

The problem is, proficiency testing does not focus on learning. It does not tell the student that it is important to study and understand the concepts. Instead, it encourages the student to memorize short term problem solving methods. It tells the student that what matters in education is not learning, it's passing tests. It causes schools and universities to focus on subject matter that is found on tests because schools and universities need to produce good results for these tests to get funding and recognition. It causes teachers to focus on methods and material that will aid students in testing instead of concepts that will be beneficial in later life and later courses.

These tests are not for the students benefit. They are for the school's benefit. They are for the government's benefit. They are for generating meaningless statistics about how good an educational system we have. They will say these tests show our children are getting a better education, when in fact all it really means is that our schools are doing a good job of prepping students to pass tests. In the read world, you don't have a teacher telling you what you need to know. In the real world, you have to think for yourself. In the real world, you have references and the ability to think logically and know how to use resources is far more important than memorizing a formula which you will forget in three months.

Do you wonder who our educational system is really serving? Sometimes I do, and I'm pretty sure it's not you and me.