Thursday, February 16, 2006

ISTEP Fall or Spring?

There is much debate about when the ISTEP should be given. Should it be in the fall before students have a chance to review material or should it be in the spring after new material has been learned? It all boils down to the intent of the ISTEP. Is the purpose of the ISTEP to measure retention or memory? What is more important, retention or memory?

Taking the ISTEP in the fall before reviewing would mean many would have forgotten some of the material they learned in the previous school year. The result is lower test scores. However, the fall has an advantage in that it would measure retention. The long summer break would lend itself to cleaning out those things, which might not be in long term memory or were not presented well enough or reinforced enough to be in long-term memory. This would measure how well the student really knew and understood the material. It would also gage how well he information taught the previous year was retained. Clearly we do not want our children to forget what they have learned so quickly.

Taking the ISTEP in the spring after reviewing and learning more material will measure that, which is has been taught most recent as well as long-term memory. The result is higher test scores. The ISTEP cannot differentiate between long-term and short-term memory. How much of the ISTEP material the student knows at the time of the test will be forgotten is not measurable? Are we after memorization and test scores or real learning and retention?

As an Engineer I would prefer to know what my child actually knows, not what they were taught and might forget. Both time periods have both pros and cons. The question comes down to, what is the intent of the ISTEP.

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