Re: DSM: (Almost) errorless measurement

Kristin Harkness (
Sun, 12 Nov 2000 08:20:35 -0500

First, Arie, I apologize for mis-spelling your name. I am frequently
mis-spelled myself, and have been known to get touchy about it, so it is
doubly embarrassing to me when I am guilty myself...

John, wow, I totally disagree. Perhaps we are having a communication
problem here, centering on the definition of the word 'test'. In this
context I am talking about a written (whether on paper or on a computer
screen) set of questions which the test taker answers, again in written
form. These answers are then scored according to some criteria for
correctness and each of the test takers is given a grade or rank of some
kind. The purpose of the test is to measure the test taker's knowledge of /
fluency in a subject area. From skimming Arie's web site, it looks to me
like the testing which he suggested fits this loose definition. I further
assumed that, since this is a discussion about education, the subject matter
tested would be 'academic' in nature (reading, writing, math, etc.) and that
the results of such testing would be used to evaluate the 'success' of a
Sudbury model school.

Even assuming that your definition of test is broader than mine, our views
could not be more opposed. The Sudbury model says that no-one other than
the student gets to decide how the student spends her or his time. A
Sudbury model school performs no formal evaluation of the student (unless he
or she seeks a diploma). There are no school-wide goals set for every
student which could be measured by any test. This does not make students
(or their parents) oblivious. It certainly does not mean that nothing is
achieved! The Sudbury model gives to children what adults have by right --
the freedom to choose, and the responsibility for their choices.

I may agree with you on the value of testing oneself, and learning from the
evaluation of others. But I think that how the testing comes about
determines whether or not it will be valuable. If I choose to be tested; if
I ask for the evaluation of someone whose judgement I trust, I will probably
take that evaluation to heart, and learn from it. It I take a test because
it is an entrance requirement for some activity which I would like to
pursue, I will probably care deeply about the results because of what they
will or will not enable me to do, but I may not believe that they are a
valid reflection of my abilities at all. If I am subjected to a test,
whether or not I think it is valuable, or respect those who administer it,
and somehow am unable to refuse to participate, I will probably just grit my
teeth and get through it and try to ignore the results.

How fortunate that neither of us can impose our world view upon the other.
How unfortunate for children that they do not have the same ability.


>Dear Kristin,
>It is sad to think that the students at a Sudbury school are oblivious to
>experiment in which they are participating, and even more so to think that
>parents are so oblivious to the need to determine if something is being
>achieved at the school that is of value to the students. It would seem that
>Sudbury model is an experiment in the totally pointless experience of time.
>If there is no way to measure a goal there probably is not a goal and
>is a certainty. If, by some stroke of the imagination - since there are no
>measurement tools available, a student at a Sudbury school achieves
>it certainly can not be defined as success as no goal was ever set.
>I believe tests are an imperative in life. I believe that self tests are a
>of validating to oneself the achievement of a goal. A life with a goal and
>without a test would, to me, be, by definition, a pointless life.
>who do not submit their existence to evaluations by others and learn from
>evaluations is living a self centered existence and probably a singularly
>unimportant one.
>John Axtell
>Kristin Harkness wrote:
>> Arie,
>> Exactly how would such a test be administered at a Sudbury school? It
>> not be mandatory. Even "offering" it would be inconsistent with the
>> which says that the staff must lay low and wait to be asked for
>> in any student's endeavor. Sorry, I just don't get it. Students who
>> to test themselves, for whatever reason, are of course free to take any
>> they like, from a Cosmo quiz to the SAT. And the results of such tests
>> the individual's business.
>> Going further, I don't see why anyone would want to test Sudbury kids,
>> except to make a point in a larger educational debate. Such testing
>> not be for the 'benefit' of the kids themselves (if any benefit can
>> from being tested) but would be for the benefit of the testers.
>> The Sudbury model allows people to find what interests them and pursue
>> to the degree of their interest. This is an amazing skill, which I am
>> working on in my own life. Having been traditionally schooled, I find
>> one of the hangovers of my education is my own unwillingness to believe
>> I have truly learned something unless I have someone else's seal of
>> on the knowledge which I have gained. Self-evaluation is useless if you
>> not believe that your own assessment is valid. Subjecting people to the
>> assessment of others, and asking them to care about the results, is, in
>> opinion, a step in the wrong direction.
>> Kristin Harkness
>> SVS parent

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