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I just got to hang out with Linda Darling-Hammond, the Stanford University professor and author who advised Barack Obama on education during his campaign.

Darling-Hammond is in town for a conference on education research along with a bunch of education reporters from across the country. I’m trying to catch snippets of the conference between, you know, my job. This was one of them.

At a dinner with reporters, Darling-Hammond hit on a point that relates to my recent article on testing costs. You might remember that I followed up that article with a blog post about an alternative view on testing and its price: that problems with testing could be solved by using better, and generally more expensive tests that rely less on multiple choice and more on open-ended questions.

Darling-Hammond is a fan of that idea, so I asked how schools could bankroll the extra expense. She said the extra costs of using better tests that measure deeper thinking could be balanced out in two crucial ways:

  • Stop testing kids in every grade. Limiting state and federal testing to a few grades, the same way that Singapore does, could spare a lot of dough, Darling-Hammond said. She added that cutting down on state testing would be balanced by keeping a lot of school-based assessments that can guide teaching. This would mean a big change in No Child Left Behind.
  • Have teachers help develop and score the tests. It might sound like a drag, but judging student work can actually be a great form of teacher training, Darling-Hammond said. That means that something that was a cost — grading the test — suddenly becomes an opportunity. “There is very little educational value in the tests that are given,” she said of the existing tests.

When it comes to educational research and opinions, I am like a pig in slop. Throw me some more to muck around in at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

EMILY ALPERT

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