Monday, August 24, 2015

Five Obvious Observations about Standardized Tests

Last week our local paper did its annual report on the release of state test scores.  They reported such news like some schools scored higher than the state average and some scored lower.  (Really?  I can't imagine that.  Isn't that what average means?)

In keeping up with such spectacular journalism, I want to report my own obvious observations about these tests:

1.  What we test, we teach.

Just type into any search engine the words "test prep."  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Isn't it amazing how much time and energy is spent getting ready for The Test.

2.  What we don't test, gets pushed aside.

I am tired of justifying teaching art, drama, music, etc.  Don't get me started on what we go through to convince an administrator that a field trip is "educationally based."

3.  Important lessons can't be scored this way.

While I want all of my students to read, write, and solve math problems, I want them to care and be creative problem-solvers.  I have yet to find a test that truly tests these skills.

4. Testing is not teaching.

When I am walking around a silent room whispering over and over, "I'm sorry I cannot answer that question,"  I'm not really teaching anything.

5.  Poverty affects test scores.

Poverty also affects some of the other lessons I want to make sure my students learn.  I want them to love to read.  I want them to feel rewarded when they persevere at learning something new.  Most important, I want them to feel that they have options for their lives beyond what they see in their own neighborhoods.

I spent the last fifteen years of my career trying to marginalize the role of test score in my daily practice.  At the end of this year's testing season, I promised my students that we would do all the lessons I love to teach.  Then came the staff meeting where we were strongly encouraged to do some of the interim tests so we could learn how to test better next year.  That was the day I resigned.

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