Presently, there are competing philosophies of education which need comparison. Two philosophies will be compared which are at opposite ends of the continuum. They are distinctly different. And yet, both schools of thought have their disciples. Each of the two will be discussed in terms of its essential features and then there will be selected contrasts made.
Advocates of measurement philosophy believe strongly in the late E. L Thorndike's (1874-1949) beliefs, "Whatever exists, exists in some amount, and if it exists in some amount, it can be measured." The measurement movement has been very strong in ascertaining how much pupils learn with its annual testing in grades three through eight and an exit test (No child Left Behind, passed by Congress and signed by the President in 20020. Thus, state mandated objectives and testing are the law of the land, if each state wants to receive federal aid for their respective schools. Each state emphasizes that pupil progress may be monitored through testing. Teachers supposedly have objectives developed by the state to provide guidelines for teaching.
There are assumptions made in that what is tested represents the basics in reading and mathematics. These two curriculum areas only, comprise what is tested in to ascertain pupil progress. All pupils are to be "proficient" in reading and mathematics by the year 2014. These curriculum areas are necessary for all to reveal optimum achievement. The others appear to be peripheral.
Standardized tests have the same subject matter and the same time limits for their taking. All conditions are to be kept the same for all pupils regardless of ability levels, or handicaps possessed. Since objective test items only, are used in standardized tests, machine scoring is possible of mass numbers of tests. Answers are either right or wrong. Pupils fill in the bubble on the answer sheet for what is perceived to be the correct answer. Test results may indicate what percentile rank the child is on. They might also indicate achievement with a grade equivalent.
Measurement theory emphasizes:
* precision of test results with an exact numeral;
* pupils compared with each other in terms of percentile ranks or grade equivalents;
* schools and school districts being compared;
* failing schools being identifiable, using test results; and
* a single test providing proof of achievement or lack thereof.
Standardized tests indicate a form of behaviorism with its uniformity of conditions for test taking, numerical test results, and interpretation of achievement. The late B. F. Skinner with his advocacy of programmed learning developed tenets of behaviorism. Dr. Skinner believed that all subject matter could be broken up into component parts, no matter how complex the original content. Thus, the inherent ideas might be simplified in order to have a starting point for the learner. The pupil then reads a sentence or more from the programmed textbook or computer screen. In sequence, the pupil responds to a multiple choice test item. If correct, the pupil feels rewarded. If incorrect, the pupil sees the correct answer and is also ready to read the succeeding content followed again with a response to a multiple choice test item, and then evaluation to notice if the answer given was correct. The program emphasizes read, respond, and check sequentially and continually.
Dr. Skinner believed that pupils make few errors when pursuing a program. With good programs, a pupil should be successful ninety five percent of the time in responses given. Each program moves forward very slowly in complexity of ideas presented. Pupils make few errors in pursuing a program. The pupil knows immediately if he/she is correct in responding to a test item covering content read. If an incorrect answer was given, the pupil sees the correct answer on the monitor. …