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Because Efficiency, Not Security

I attended a recent professional development session about the new SAT to be administered this coming spring to every junior in Michigan. I won't comment on the statewide change from ACT to SAT because I think enough people already have; just know that there are those that are quietly raising eyebrows at what appears to be an amassing monopoly by College Board and David Coleman.

While I found this session helpful at demystifying some of the things my students will eventually be asked to do on a test, I found it a little unsettling that, when asked about the need to time the test by a member of the audience, the company's representative responded that it was a "security measure."

In my three years as a teacher, I've overheard students countless times warning others about what was on the quiz or test in a class that other students are fortunate enough to take later in the day. I get that. Although that raises larger concerns about the way students are being assessed, and the idea that an assessment is more of memory and recall than doing...

What I don't understand is the need to deemphasize why these tests are really timed. Efficiency is king here. Thomas Newkirk raises these concerns in The Art of Slow Reading, a book that I was fortunate enough to read and discuss with staff members this past year. These tests assume that students will get answers wrong because they have to move as quickly as possible. You can't rank students without having incorrect answers. If every students were given as much time as possible, the reliability of these tests (these are not assessments) would decline. But to pretend that the sole reason for the timing of these tests to be just for security measures alone is disingenuous.

It's my continued hope that the kind of real reading that students practice in my classroom, where they are able to pose questions about texts, conduct additional research, engage in conversations with others to construct meaning rather than extract someone else's meaning, will persevere.

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