Creating ‘Fair and Appropriate Testing’

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  • Sorry Not Sorry: The Truth About Apologies
  • Biden’s Hubris
  • TV and the Boomers

Credit…Pete Gamlen

To the Editor:

Re “Timed Tests Are Biased Against Your Kids” (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 22):

As a retired high school teacher who taught both general English and International Baccalaureate literature, I had a knee-jerk reaction to Adam Grant’s assertion “For decades, educators have seen speed as a marker of aptitude or mastery.” No, we have not.

The teachers with whom I have worked understand that speed is not a reflection of intellect. My final assessments were frequently essays for which students were given at least a week, with conferencing, to develop a rough draft before revising a final.

As teachers, we do, as Dr. Grant said, feel pressure to prepare students for high-stakes tests — not just college entrance exams but also the standardized tests that are the legacy of No Child Left Behind. In my mind, none fairly evaluate the thinking or skills of a student. We have allowed the testing industry to subvert best educational practices.

Ironically, just as the College Board is relaxing time pressure for the SAT, educators feel the need to reinstitute exams given during class time to avert potential issues with A.I. Since we have to guard against assessments consuming hours of class time, timed tests are likely not going away soon. We must acknowledge that the limitations of our educational system do not reflect the intellect of our students.

Kaye Thompson Peters
St. Paul, Minn.

To the Editor:

Adam Grant makes a good point: Timed tests make it difficult for many students to do well on tests! But there are often many other problems with testing that cause students to do poorly.

For example, rather than testing key points, some teachers put trick or esoteric questions on tests that are purposely designed to make sure that some students don’t do as well as others. Sometimes test questions don’t correspond with what’s been taught.

Assessments can be improved when teachers give students practice tests that review important material that will be on a final test and discuss the results afterward. Essay questions can be given out in advance to help students prepare for them — two or three questions in advance with one of them on the test.

If learning key ideas and skills is what testing is designed to measure, then we can do much better in creating fair and appropriate testing for all our children in the future.

Elliott Seif
The writer is a former professor of education at Temple University and the author of “Teaching for Lifelong Learning: How to Prepare Students for a Changing World.”

To the Editor:

Thank you for Adam Grant’s essay about the horrors of timed tests. I am 70 years old, and I still carry negative feelings about math because of the many timed math tests I had to take in grade school. I found out later that I was actually pretty good at math when not rushed, but I still have trouble shaking the feeling that I’m bad at it.

I wonder what opportunities might have opened up for me if I had not been struggling under this misimpression for so much of my life.

Margaret Tomlinson
Catskill, N.Y.

Sorry Not Sorry: The Truth About Apologies

Credit…Illustration by Akshita Chandra/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Famous People Don’t Know How to Say ‘I’m Sorry,’” by Elizabeth Spiers (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 23):

The reason that some people, famous or not, don’t know how to apologize is that intellectually they know they are sorry but emotionally they aren’t able to connect to it. They at least try to make an effort.

For others who don’t emote their sorrow, the reason could be that they don’t have sorrow in them to begin with.

The former people might avoid an apology until put on the spot out of shame or embarrassment — the latter because they are shameless and just want to correct the bad publicity.

Paul Rosenberg
Palm Beach, Fla.
The writer is a retired psychiatrist.

To the Editor:

Elizabeth Spiers’s essay about apologies struck some compelling chords. Here are two more notes.

First, most of us only get defensive when we know we are wrong. Star celebrities could use their spotlights to set stellar examples.

Second, apologies without action are meaningless. It’s not enough to say that you’re sorry and that you won’t make that mistake again. We need to keep our word. Otherwise, the words themselves are shallow.

Thank you for raising our awareness about this significant issue. Let’s all set better examples. After all, we really learn from what we see, don’t we?

Mary M. Mitchell
The writer is an author of books about etiquette.

Biden’s Hubris

Credit…Marco Bello/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Biden Is Not Just Going to Give Up,” by Jamelle Bouie (column, Sept. 24):

Mr. Bouie provides a helpful view of the political reasons that President Biden is staying in the game. But there is another side that completes this analysis — the personal reasons that he just can’t give up.

Being surrounded by sycophants and flatterers in what is genuinely the most important job in the world can go to one’s head. Former President Barack Obama speaks to this in his memoir — checking himself in the mirror to ask if hubris was creeping into his decisions and worldview.

If Mr. Biden were to accept the reality of his frailness and be a one-term president, history would treat him as one of the greats for restoring stability to a weakened democracy. But when hubris has him convinced that only he can beat Donald Trump, he puts all of his accomplishments — and our nation’s future — at risk. His decision-making is clearly weakened by both age and hubris.

I wish that Mr. Obama would call “Uncle Joe” and challenge him to examine his hubris and realize that it’s time to step aside. If Mr. Biden has a senior moment — or, worse, a major health event — just before the election, it will be too late to step aside for somebody who can win.

Please, President Biden, it’s time to pass the torch to others who can carry it forward. If you could do this with grace and soon, that at the end of the day might be your greatest accomplishment.

Mark Fraga

TV and the Boomers

Credit…Simon Bailly

To the Editor:

“As Young People Stream Away, Networks Bet on Boomer Taste” (front page, Sept. 24) is loaded with stereotypes of boomers that do not come close to reflecting accurately this 71-year-old and many others my age.

The notion that most boomers watch — day and night — mindless drivel programmed by the three TV networks insults those who have busy, engaging lives and attend films, live theater, concerts, etc. We are repelled by game shows, reality TV and other low-cost video pablum that networks broadcast endlessly.

I reside in Detroit and receive the CBC. Canadians presumably have as many streaming opportunities, but CBC broadcasts a wide variety of thoughtful, plot-driven shows in the evenings. CBC occasionally stoops to the low-grade “Family Feud” formats, but it has maintained a level of quality that the U.S. networks abandoned years ago when cable TV became prominent.

The three networks will not survive as their current demographic fades into the Great Beyond if they fail to pursue engaging, intellectually stimulating programs that attract newer, broader audiences back from streaming and cable.

Greg Ptucha

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