Pen-and-paper exams were created to reform schools, writes William J. Reese in Testing Wars in the Public Schools: A Forgotten History.
Today’s reform critics believe standardized testing “forces a dull, routinized and stifling learning culture,” notes Education Gadfly. However, the old system was characterized by “public exhibitions” of “well-rehearsed oratories and parades.”
Reformers Horace Mann (Massachusetts’s first secretary of education) and Samuel Gridley Howe (a member of the state’s School Committee) fought to replace exhibitions with written tests. In 1845, the first written test produced abysmal scores. Howe was voted out of office. The testing wars continue.