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About Beth Bruno...
Beth is a freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience in mental health and education. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Psychology in 1966. She continued her education at Harvard University (Ed.M. in Educaton, 1967) and Yeshiva University (M.A. in Clinical Psychology, 1976). Beth has served as Chair of the Psychology Department for the Special Children's Center in Ithaca, New York, and has worked as Adjunct Instructor at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.

Beth Bruno has always been "fascinated by people--their motives, emotions, what makes them tick." Her ability to "read people and connect with them" is a true gift. As a school psychologist, her philosophy is not to solve problems for people, but rather "to help people discover their inner resources and create ways to help themselves." "Some people fear the unknown," she says. "I welcome it, because I can usually make the best of whatever happens." Beth encourages questions from young people, adults, educators and professionals. She will do her best to answer each question personally and in a timely manner. She can be reached via email at

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Schoolhouse Views
by Beth Bruno

Fair Testing
Controversy swirls around standardized testing practices in the US. Some of the problems cited include:
  • The multiple-choice format, which measures learning in an oversimplified manner, ignoring its social, contextual, adaptive and dynamic aspects.
  • Norm-referenced testing that places test-takers along a "normal" or "bell-shaped" curve. This model assumes that whatever a test measures should be distributed along the curve, so test items are selected based on this criterion. It also assumes that a certain percentage of students will fail, thus encouraging low expectations and low "tracks" for those students.
  • Test bias. Tests have historically favored the white, middle-class (dominant) culture. In our increasingly diverse country, tests that do not take such diversity into account are inherently unfair, biased and even obsolete.
  • High-stakes decisions based on the results of a single test. For example, some school districts require students to pass a single standardized test to qualify for graduation, no matter what teacher evaluations or a student’s portfolio indicates. Basing major decisions, such as graduation, curriculum choices and course grades on the results of one test can disproportionately and unfairly affect life outcomes for students.
  • Accountability. When teacher performance reviews are based on student standardized test scores, teachers may resort to "teaching to the test," despite test publishers’ warnings against this practice. Test scores may go up as a result, but real learning may not.
  • When the accreditation of an entire school is based on the test results of its student body, the incidence of cheating to make schools look better, such as recently reported in New York City, is bound to increase.
Educators need to continually improve the curriculum, instruction methods and accountability for learning outcomes. But we need to do it in a way that preserves student and teacher enthusiasm and excitement about learning, an inherently enthralling process. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing proposes "Fair Testing" based on a variety of performance-based assessments to include:
  • Classroom observation
  • Projects
  • Portfolios
  • Performance exams
  • Essays
  • Standardized tests (including criterion-referenced tests) that employ a variety of response modalities.

Fair testing procedures evolve from a community approach to education in which each school fosters a supportive social environment for inquiry, intellectual challenge and cooperation, not only within the school but also by involving members of the wider community – including families. Recommended standard practices in such a "community of learners" include:

  • Cooperative learning projects and assessment procedures involving students, teachers and community members engaged in independent, small-group and large group instruction.
  • Learning standards based on needs defined within the community, not by bureaucratic convenience.
  • Recognition that learning is based on active construction of knowledge leading to adaptation of old constructs, recognition or creation of new ones, development of networks of knowledge and development of a broad variety of skills.
  • Learning occurs in a social context that is emotionally and intellectually engaging, as well as reflective.
  • Teaching adapts to the learner.
  • Learning style, previous knowledge, experience, interests, talents and forms of intelligence influence how each child learns and how each teacher teaches.
  • Research findings guide curriculum choices and assessment approaches.
We can all recognize the difference between a mind that is "turned off" and a mind that is "turned on." Where there is no excitement in the air, no learning is taking place. Let’s dedicate ourselves, as parents, as educators, as students, to finding ways to keep our minds and the minds of our children "turned on" in classrooms and households everywhere. Higher test scores and lifelong learning will be the natural consequences.

To learn more about "Fair Testing" or to order publications about this important and fascinating subject, contact:

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing
342 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: 617-864-4810
Fax: 617-497-2224

Beth Bruno
Welcome to Insights, the Luckiest Spot on the Internet

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