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Re: Steven Cook’s May 18 Labor Voices column “The end of standardized testing”: This may give way to something much worse. While Michigan is apparently cutting back on end-of-the-year tests, there are signs that it will institute what could be daily testing, known as competency-based education.

Competency-based education consists of module after module of programmed instruction that students work through online and be tested on, which will drastically diminish the role of teachers and increase profits of technology companies. The new education law announced grants for the development of these teach and test machines (sections 1201 and 1204).

The Michigan Department of Education website reads like an advertisement, and cheerfully tells us that “Competency-Based Education can help all students through flexible systems that support student success and allow for reporting of student competency that reflects student learning.” In addition, Matchbook Learning, a school “turnaround” organization that is very active in several “low achieving schools” in Michigan relies heavily on Competency-Based Education.

Neither the Michigan DOE nor Matchbook seem to be aware that that there is no hard research support for this expensive investment. A document written for Michigan’s superintendents notes that “… there is currently no academic research demonstrating the effectiveness of K-12 competency-based education.” We have wasted billions of dollars and huge amounts of time on useless tests. Competency-based education might be an even bigger mistake.

Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus

University of Southern California

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