Re: DSM: (Almost) errorless measurement as analysis

Robert Swanson (
Sun, 12 Nov 2000 17:30:21 -0800

I wish to point out that a form of testing continues. It is evaluation.
Daniel Greenberg has given us much evaluation. Input from a variety of
sources has been published. And here in this study we now have something a
little more organized as formal analysis. Whether looking at a specific
student or at the general milieu, the point of looking is similar -- is the
school experience something carried as applicable to experience outside of
school and to what quality? In-the-box thinking believes good grades result
in quality life. Anybody believe this true? Rhonda looked at qualities of
conversation rather than grades. (She did this at Liberty Valley, south of
Chicago.) Here are a few points she came up with. The headings are mine:

SVS Journals October and November 2000: "The Role of Conversation in
Developing Critical Thinking" by Rhonda Goebel

Purpose of this study
-- is to explore the nature of critical thinking as manifested through
spontaneous conversations.

-- They don't need adults to figure things out for them. We figure things
out WITH them. And, like kids of all ages, we serve as role models for,
among other things, repeatedly figuring out new stuff!
-- Children, as the central concern of my research, were examined in the
here and now, as opposed to some potential to be realized, In interviews, I
responded to their lead, with them directing some of our time together, for
example, playing with their toys. I became interested in their capacities,
exploring them in interviews. My intention was to engage them in
conversation in topics of their interest, acknowledging, respecting, and
listening to their thoughts, to ultimately represent them thoroughly and
accurately. ...I avoided being intrusive, respecting their right to have
their school time be as natural as possible.

Quality education
-- ...I could ... tell you which ones had spent a lot of years in this sort
of an educational setting and which were new to it. Not because the ones who
have been here a long time are the most intellectually acute on all
subjects, but because they can hear a subtle, complicated exposition and
understand it in its entirety, and make real contributions... I am going to
repeat that: the length of time a kid has spent in a Sudbury school tells
you a lot about how well they can HEAR. How well they understand... they
have spent their time talking and listening.

The Old School
-- (student) In the old public school I went to I had always been thought of
as the good student. I had started to speak up about things that I felt, and
I always thought that that would be accepted. I'm this good student. They
were thrown to the floor, and I was like spit on...

The model is...
-- Sudbury model schools define themselves as communities of individuals in
evolution (within communication).
-- The pivotal boundary that Sudbury model school members cross is that of
authoritarianism. This fundamentally distinguishes the Sudbury model school
from other alternative reform efforts.
-- Sudbury model school defines itself as a self-chosen community with which
free-thinking individuals feel compelled to comply.
-- ...offers many natural learning opportunities.

Data shows:
-- how self-directed individuals prioritize and maintain values of social
responsibility, privately and publicly, within a democratic community.
-- Sudbury... is conductive to developing a sense of social responsibility.
-- (They) develop public participation skills.
-- young people report being brought back into participating meaningfully in
society at large.
-- ...people realize their power to explicitly determine agreed upon
boundaries of individual and community identity and rights.

Everything has meaning in relationship. This data has meaning when used
against data from public schools, from other Sudbury schools, and when
considered relative to an individual's later sense of success or personal

A point of interest is the statement "...individuals feel compelled to
comply". Rhonda said she could not comment as part of the study, but this is
an important aspect she wanted to mention. Yes, me too. I want to know what
compels students -- the judiciary punishments, a status quo agenda, shared
interest in supporting creative adventures & projects or mental focuses,
sense of obligation to "brotherhood" and survival, fear of boredom or
loneliness, isolated internal desires to seek out experiences, the
public-at-large scrutiny, the pleasure of talking to vent uncertainties, or

One more item... the model is: communities of individuals in evolution.
Though this study focused on communication, I hope other studies will
consider various aspects. How about evolution of brain development, personal
skills, leadership, moving from fear to joy, the evolution of play, and the
evolution of associations with others.


on 11/12/00 5:20 AM, Kristin Harkness at wrote:
> First, Arie, I apologize for misspelling your name. I am frequently
> misspelled 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.
> Kristin
>> Dear Kristin,
>> It is sad to think that the students at a Sudbury school are oblivious to
> the
>> experiment in which they are participating, and even more so to think that
> the
>> 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
> the
>> 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
> success
>> is a certainty. If, by some stroke of the imagination - since there are no
>> measurement tools available, a student at a Sudbury school achieves
> something
>> 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
> way
>> 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.
> Individuals
>> who do not submit their existence to evaluations by others and learn from
> those
>> 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
> could
>>> not be mandatory. Even "offering" it would be inconsistent with the
> model,
>>> which says that the staff must lay low and wait to be asked for
> assistance
>>> in any student's endeavor. Sorry, I just don't get it. Students who
> want
>>> to test themselves, for whatever reason, are of course free to take any
> test
>>> they like, from a Cosmo quiz to the SAT. And the results of such tests
> are
>>> 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
> would
>>> not be for the 'benefit' of the kids themselves (if any benefit can
> accrue
>>> from being tested) but would be for the benefit of the testers.
>>> The Sudbury model allows people to find what interests them and pursue
> it,
>>> to the degree of their interest. This is an amazing skill, which I am
> still
>>> working on in my own life. Having been traditionally schooled, I find
> that
>>> one of the hangovers of my education is my own unwillingness to believe
> that
>>> I have truly learned something unless I have someone else's seal of
> approval
>>> on the knowledge which I have gained. Self-evaluation is useless if you
> do
>>> 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
> my
>>> opinion, a step in the wrong direction.
>>> Kristin Harkness
>>> SVS parent

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