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"Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted."

— Albert Einstein

The time has come for the state of Utah to establish an education assessment system that measures important attributes of student self-development.

As is well stated by Dr. Arthur Costa, professor emeritus at California State University, Fullerton: "What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has now been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value."

This is especially true with the use of standardized tests and letter grades for schools.

In examining our current state assessment system, we must ask these questions:

1. Does the test data tell us anything about what the students actually learned?

2. Does the test data provide information which motivates students to learn?

3. Does the test data assist teachers to improve student learning?

4. Does the test data influence self-development and personal expression?

5. Does the test data provide valuable information to establish school effectiveness?

The answer to all five questions is a resounding no. Rather than benefiting students, standardized tests enrich test developers who charge millions for their service. What would happen if we used this money to benefit students?

Standardized tests place excess stress on students and teachers alike, often causing psychological harm to both. Students are individuals, possessing unique characteristics, values, emotions and cognitive powers. Any attempt to standardize them produces anxiety. Mass testing is not an effective strategy for measuring what is educationally significant. Nor is it a strategy for effective teaching.

To replace the current measurement system, we must support processes that examine individual self-learning and measure significant human attributes such as identity, inquiry, interaction, initiative, imagination, intuition, integrity and (multiple) intelligences. Concentration on these qualities expresses the love and respect we should have for all children.

It is an attitude supported by Ira Progoff when he stated, "Love depends upon the capacity to reach beneath the surface of persons, to feel and touch the seed of life that is hidden there. And Love becomes a power when it is capable of evoking that seed and drawing it forth from its hiding place."

So we have a dilemma. We wish our students to achieve at high levels, yet we impose on them a mediocre, low-level prescribed uniform curriculum. The result is boys and girls able to take a number two pencil in hand, blacken little boxes and soon forget why they blackened each box. If this appears to be a senseless activity, it is.

To call forth outstanding individual achievement, to develop geniuses, we must help students grow in things that have more value but are difficult to measure. This includes the development of unique talents, curious inquiry, creative imagination and respectful interaction (love).

One way good teachers help students learn how to assess their progress is to have them keep portfolios with samples of their great ideas and thoughts, their big questions, inventions, a record of good deeds, poems, art and other creations.

We began by stating the obvious: standardized tests fail to provide benefits to students or teachers. We end with a fervent request to end this system and replace it with Student-Centered Assessment, a measuring program that examines human growth, self-discovery, personal experiences and "unlocks" the genius that may lie undiscovered in the neural well of each boy and girl. If Utah changes to a student-centered system and focuses on the development of things that are more important but difficult to measure, we will start an education revolution.

Lynn Stoddard has 67 years of experience as a teacher, principal and education leader. He can be reached at . M. Donald Thomas is a retired superintendent of schools and a national education consultant. He can be reached at .