It’s Standardized Testing Time!
It’s that time of year, folks.
Buy a whole pack of #2 and sharpen them all, buddy, because we’re doing this for the next three weeks.
Yeah, you heard me right. THREE. WEEKS.
Personally, I think this time of year is my personal version of hell. I have to sit with students for four hours each day, and I literally can do nothing except watch them take the test. I can’t read, write, doodle, sleep, or do anything except watch my kids fill in bubbles. My brain needs mental stimulation and I can’t handle just watching the clock tick for hours and hours over three days of testing and three days of retesting.
Testing in my state (and probably in yours!) bothers me because it’s too much. There are so many stakeholders in education: teachers, administrators, parents, community members, policy makers, and even the students themselves. Because each of these groups are demanding MORE data and MORE accountability, we equate that with MORE tests, LONGER tests, MORE days of pre- and re-testing, and MORE testing security. As a result, we spend at least fifteen days pre-testing, testing, and re-testing our students just for the main test — that’s not counting, ESL, writing, vocational, and high school-level exams. We also devote several hours each morning over fifteen days for school-wide “tutoring” and remediation, in addition to our government-sponsored after school and Saturday tutoring.
Testing is important because we get an individual score for the student, the teacher, the school, and the district. We calculate pass/fail rates, growth, and value added by the teacher. Score are tied to the school improvement plan and goals for the following year. We are constantly shown data and graphs telling us how we rank against other schools in our district. When our school shows up at the bottom of the graph, teachers and administrators are told we aren’t working hard enough. When we are at the top it is assumed that we are doing something right. Everything comes down to the test.
Testing fascinates me because I think we do too much of it. Too much rides on one test, and I don’t believe the test gives an accurate picture of a student’s success. Don’t get me wrong — the scores are definitely useful. They show us patterns and areas we need to target. However, I think we can get these same results with a shorter test. Two hours of math one day, and two hours of reading the next would suffice — no quarter tests. No retests. No four hour testing sessions. While testing stresses the kids out, most of them realize it does not define them as students. Their grades don’t always correlate with their test scores, and they are almost always promoted to the next grade level, even if they fail. We aren’t making our kids pre- and re-test for their benefit, we are making them pre- and re-test so we can force them to get the highest possible score on a very specific test. The adults (teachers and administrators) need the highest possible scores to justify budgets, teacher quality, and policies.
Our students would fare better and learn more if we took back our thirty days of testing and tutoring and put those back into teaching curriculum. If we’d stop teaching to the test, students might actually perform better on the test itself.
Just a thought.
Since I can’t do much else during testing but think, I’ll be thinking a lot about these issues over the next three weeks. I hope folks across the nation are thinking about some of the same things, and that one day we can scale back on our death-by-assessment practices.
So tell me…what do you think of testing? Love it? Hate it? Necessary evil? Do you have to participate in testing? Does it numb your brain like it numbs mine?