Tuesday, October 7, 2014

High Stakes Demand Perfection

Over at Parenting the Core, we find yet another tale pf a Pearson screw-up.

It is not a huge screw-up. It's not even an incomprehensible screw-up. It's just one answer for one problem in one math assignment. But Sarah Blaine correctly notes all the reasons it matters.

If this had been The Big Test instead of a small assignment, the parent would never have seen the wrong answer. The teacher would never have had a chance to correct the wrong answer. And nobody would have a chance to fix the results of the wrong answer.

High stakes demand perfection. If a series of questions is going to decide a child's educational future, that series of questions had better be perfectly designed and flawlessly scored. If Pearson wants to exert this kind of control over all the students in the marketplace, they need a policy of Zero Defects for every one of their testing products.

If they cannot achieve perfection, I'm not going to ding them for that because, as far as I know, they are human beings. But if they cannot perfection, then they must have transparency. There must be a means for teachers and parents and students to check their work, to say, "This answer that just shunted my child into a nightmare world of retesting and remediation is incorrect."

If you want to play for high stakes, you have to be playing on a playing field that is not only level, but immaculately groomed and free from all dips and lumps and gopher holes.

The irony here is that while students and teachers and parents are testing for high stakes, Pearson is not working for high stakes at all. They will continue to make mistakes and it won't cost them a thing.

So I get Blaine's annoyance. The mistake on her daughter's work is small, and I wouldn't want to live in a world where a company and its employees are crushed over a small simple error. But the mistake is just one more example of how Pearson handles its business. And I also do not want to live in a world where students and teachers must have their fate resting in the hands of a company that doesn't know how to handle its business.


  1. To me, the only reason to have a test is to see if the students have learned what I wanted them to learn, and if not, to re-teach. Any test where you can't see what they did wrong and figure out why is useless.

  2. When you don't allow any adults to see the test, you don't have to worry about mistakes. That's Pearson.