Multiple choice testing and dual enrollment can be education fake-outs

An article yesterday in The Chronicle of Higher Education is a warning to not take for granted that children are actually learning in dual-enrollment programs, and especially not when multiple choice tests are the primary measure of student comprehension.

. . . The student explained that my class is not compatible with her “learning method.” She said that she prefers “that multiplying method, you know, where there are letters, A, B, C.”

I said, “You mean, multiple choice?”

“Yes, that’s the one,” she said. “That’s the method where I learn best. I’m good at figuring out which letters aren’t the right ones.”

Parents may feel confident that their children are receiving a top-notch education if they are participating in a dual-enrollment program. And if children have learned to game standardized testing, their scores might not reflect that their education experience is woefully inadequate.

The apparent efficiency of multiple choice tests is deceptive. There is no actual demonstration of comprehension or the ability to apply the concepts covered in class. The dependence on standardized testing as a measure of student progress is troubling for a number of reasons. Teachers need to use other methods to accurately assess comprehension, and parents must get involved if necessary changes are going to be made.

Other methods may be more time consuming or expensive, but if the goal of education is that students learn and are also able to display understanding and acquired skills, then our educational institution's actions should reflect that.

The apparent efficiency of dual enrollment can also be deceptive if the classes are not actually college level. In Texas, community colleges can "certify high-school teachers to be community-college teachers and then anoint their classes with college credit. This solves problems with high-school budgets and the high school/college transition. College is now high school." 

It is now, and ever shall be, the responsibility of parents and students to constantly evaluate the quality of education they are receiving. Schools and colleges are often preoccupied with untangling red tape and jumping through federal hoops, so it is nearly inevitable that students will be the ones who suffer from educational  neglect.

One of the most important rules learned in Geometry is to never assume anything based on how it looks or what we are lead to believe.  This is especially true about education, both high school and college. Don't be afraid to ask questions and compare materials, or find others ways to asses your child's comprehension to get the most of your education dollars and ensure the student's future success.