Williams Psychologist Rethinks How To Evaluate Students

Students practice for the the Common Core State Standards Test in Stockport, Ohio. (Ty Wright/AP)

Students practice for the the Common Core state standards test in Stockport, Ohio. (Ty Wright/AP)

Testing season is here, which means: a number two pencil and lots of bubbles to fill in. Massachusetts schools are administering the MCAS English Language Arts tests starting next week, and a new test called PARCC this week.

But imagine if, instead of sitting kids down to choose synonyms or answer questions about a small reading passage, a team of researchers analyzed recordings of conversations in the classroom to assess verbal skills.

It’s one of the suggestions from Williams College developmental psychologist, Susan Engel, who wants to rethink education to focus less on rote memorization and more on core values. She argues that standardized tests do not measure any qualities that actually matter in life, or that parents and teachers want to instill in kids.


Susan Engel, developmental psychologist at Williams College, where she directs the Williams program in teaching. Her most recent books are “The End of the Rainbow: How Educating for Happiness — Not Money — Would Transform Our Schools” and “The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood.”


The ARTery: ‘The Hungry Mind’: Psychologist Susan Engel’s Call To Arms

  • “Engel implores us to shift our perspective from what we say we believe is important for our children — curiosity — to the many ways we unconsciously sabotage that same curiosity when children choose to express it.”

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