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The Future of Standardized Testing

In the latest installment of our Half-Baked Design Challenge, we gave some of our most creative friends 30 minutes to redesign the standardized test. Their solutions are at once absurd, profound, and probably not the answer to all our problems, so we also rounded up the fully-baked ideas at the forefront of this academic quandary.

In the latest installment of our Half-Baked Design Challenge, we gave some of our most creative friends 30 minutes to redesign the standardized test. Their solutions are at once absurd, profound, and probably not the answer to all our problems, so we also rounded up some of the fully-baked ideas at the forefront of this academic conundrum.

Dan Schwartz's Choicelets


Dan Schwartz, a researcher at Stanford University, has designed a series of games that looks at how children learn rather than what they’ve memorized. Through games such as designing a digital poster or lighting an American Idol-like stage for animal characters, Schwartz measures how students use feedback, how persistent they are, and whether they choose to engage in critical thinking. The results can help teachers understand what children need in order to learn more effectively.

Institute of Play's Glasslab

Game designers at Institute of Play took the classic SimCity and turned it into an assessment tool for teachers by adding short challenges students can work on in classrooms. The game is based on the Common Core State Standards, and both students and teachers get immediate feedback as children play. In the first version of the game, available this fall in beta tests, middle school students will act as mayors trying to solve a city’s air pollution problem while balancing local needs such as keeping jobs at a power plant and staying within a budget. The game is designed to teach students about environmental issues while also measuring how they solve problems, read text and diagrams, and explain complex systems.

Badges For Lifelong Learning by HASTAC, Mozilla, and MacArthur Foundation

A perfect (or terrible) score on the math section of the SAT can’t demonstrate whether or not a student is passionate about music, is a good leader, or knows how to code in Java. Digital badges, similar to their Girl Scouts counterparts, are designed to help reward and track these diverse kinds of skills and learning. Future schools or employers could see a deeper picture of how someone has grown over time. The Mozilla Foundation has created an open tech standard so anyone—from schools to community organizations— can create badges for students to share as they celebrate their individuality.

Illustrations by Thomas Porostocky.

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