History of Large Scale Writing Assessment in the United States.
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Not surprisingly Harvard led the way with essay testing, according to Connors in Composition Rhetoric, starting “with the advent of written entrance exams at Harvard in 1874 and the general adoption of such exams at most established colleges” (11).
Not long after, Adams Sherman Hill, who administered the entrance exam at Harvard, that Harvard, in the 1880s, institute “remedial writing instruction—just until the crisis passed” (Connors 11)
The Crisis has not passed and the field of composition, in some ways, owes its very existence to this ongoing crisis, since the first collegiate composition class (according to folks like Connors and Berlin) started because of the literacy crisis at Harvard.
Testing led, in some ways, to the field of writing studies.
Around the same time that writing exams are beginning, we have Alfred Binet (1859-1911), creating the first “intelligence test” in 1905, which was administered to Paris school children would “do tasks such as follow commands, copy patterns, name objects, and put things in order or arrange them properly” (PBS)
Here we have the beginning of psychometrics, with IQs, and numbers seeming to represent a “native intelligence.”
There must have been something in the water at the turn of the 20th century.