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Education Assessments – What Matters?

February 24, 2011

As schools across the state prepare for the state assessments, nearly 500 people attended a lecture Wednesday night to listen to an education expert who says these assessments are aimed at “trying to fix things that do not matter.”

Dr. Yong Zhao gave the talk as the Jones Distinguished Lecture, addressing American Education in the Age of Globalization in Albert Taylor Hall at Emporia State University.

Over the course of an hour and a half, Zhao led the audience through what is meant when media reports U.S. students have tested poorly when compared to results from other countries, such as China and India. He provided data showing long-term studies of more than 40 years reveal countries which do well on these tests do not do well economically or otherwise.

It shows they are very good at taking tests, Zhao said. And if we took away all extra-curricular things in the U.S. system – athletics, arts, and the like – and stripped schools down to being students sitting at desks, our students would test higher too.

Zhao said the U.S. education system’s strength, prior to the No Child Left Behind legislation, was the value it placed on a variety of areas of accomplishment. He pointed out as the U.S. was enacting the standardized testing included in NCLB, the Chinese government began moving the opposite way towards allowing more local control, autonomy and away from standardized testing.

Zhao’s message was well-received by the audience, consisting of community members, educators and students, ranging in age and in ethnic diversity. Joining the record number of live audience members were 23 people who attended the lecture online. People who were unable to attend the event in person or online can view it at

What does matter, Zhao said, was the thing that all great empires across history have in common: tolerance. “We need a diversity of talents.”

In answering audience questions at the end, Zhao said, “I came to the US trying to get away from any authoritarian government,” Zhao said. “Now I came here and the state government suddenly tells me your child is not up to my standard now. Your child did not meet state expectations. I don’t want my children’s teachers to become bureaucrats who comply with mandates, I want them to be caring human beings.”

“We’re educating human beings, we’re not making hot dogs,” he said.

Zhao is the Presidential Chair of Global Education and Online Learning at the University of Oregon, where he also serves as the Associate Dean for Global Education and Online Learning and the Director of Center for Advanced Technology in Education. He is a fellow of the International Academy for Education.

Further information about Zhao and his message is available at

The lecture was sponsored by the ESU Special Events Board, Jones Institute of Educational Excellence, ESU Academic Enhancement Grants, the Department of Instructional Design and Technology, as well as the Flint Hills Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa.  


Picture of Yong Zhao

Flint Hills Chapter of PDK Hosts Reception for Jones Distinguished Lecturer Yong Zhao

Flint Hills Chapter Members and guests visited with Jones Distinguished Lecturer, Dr. Yong Zhao prior to his lecture on Wednesday, February 23, 2011. The reception was held in the PDK room of Memorial Union on the Emporia State University campus. Dr. Zhao is an At-Large Member of the PDK International Board. The reception was well-attended with PDK International President, Sandee Crowther, as well as guests from the PDK and FEA community, as well as the Emporia State University and Emporia communities. Dr. Zhao signed copies of his book, Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization, during the reception.

Picture of Yong Zhao at Reception

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