Testing isn’t bad.
Making a student’s grade depend on the outcome of one test is bad.
You and I can’t do anything about the SATs or state-mandated competency tests, but we don’t have to use all-or-nothing tests to assess writing skill achievement in our classrooms.
A good alternative is to phrase our assessment goals in terms of consecutive attempts, as is done here:
At the end of grade nine, students who have previous knowledge of the writing prompt and at least 24 hours to prepare will be able to write a persuasive essay of no more than 600 words in an hour without consulting their notes or sources other than a dictionary. The essay will meet the standards listed on the grading guide. Students will have achieved the objective when they are able to perform at this level on three consecutive attempts.
A student can meet the standard after three attempts or after 30. The only grade that counts is the grade on the three consecutive successful attempts. Everything up to that point is just practice.
[This post previously appeared in Writing Points for September, 2008. ©2008 Linda G. Aragoni.]