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The Role of Multiple Choice Assessments in History Courses

Theodore K. Rabb
Emeritus Professor of History, Princeton University

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"Assessment" and "accountability" are the current buzz words in education. In an ideal world, evaluation would be unnecessary. Socrates never gave grades. But in our imperfect world, mechanisms of judgment are everywhere. Most standardized tests today reveal nothing significant about a student's understanding. Consequently, accountability has become a chimera. Any system that promotes mindless "teach to the test" practices is inherently a failure...  Read more »

Jeff Matlock
Middle School History Teacher (Scotts Valley, CA)

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Successful instruction in any subject is about much more than scoring "Advanced" on the standardized test. When teachers must teach the entirety of the state's extensive standards, the richness of historical learning and understanding is reduced. It is important to provide as many opportunities for learning as possible.  Read more »

J. Martin Rochester
Teaching Professor Ph.D., Syracuse University

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Our schools have done a poor job of providing students a solid base of factual knowledge. We no longer expect students to acquire this knowledge. The effort to reduce the emphasis on rote learning has not led to high school graduates gaining factual knowledge.  Read more »

Ray W. Karras
Educational Consultant (Nashua, NH)

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Most multiple choice questions asked today tell "nothing significant about a student's understanding." But essay writing is not the only acceptable alternative: multiple choice questions can be reformed so that it can test students' understanding.  Read more »

Ann Bourman
8th-grade History Teacher (Los Angeles, CA)

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Multiple-choice testing has no role in my history classroom except as part of our standardized tests or assessments I'm required to administer...I don't use them in my teaching. I want children to write and think. I don't want an emphasis on A-B-C-D guessing.  Read more »

Shelly Weintraub
Curriculum Coordinator, Oakland, California Unified School District (retired)

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Supporters of multiple choice testing often accept the notion that assessment is about accountability. But there are at least two other purposes for a broader understanding of assessment: to provide feedback for the teacher and to create the basis for a common conversation among colleagues.  Read more »

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