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Regarding the Dec. 23 editorial “Scoring the ability to think“: The debate over the relationship between rankings on tests of international competition and the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-life situations is not limited to Japan. It is an ongoing issue in the United States as well, particularly because American students have never excelled on the closely watched paper-and-pencil tests.

But there is a big difference between a testing meritocracy and a talent meritocracy. That’s one reason that the authentic assessment movement is developing. Its purpose is to create instruments that better evaluate the wherewithal necessary for success in the workplace and elsewhere.

It’s important to bear in mind, however, that measuring noncognitive outcomes of instruction is equally noteworthy. It’s not unusual to identify teachers who teach students their subject well, but teach them to hate the subject in the process. When that happens, no matter how high a particular nation’s students rank on tests of international competition, it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

walt gardner

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