Jun 04 2013

Testing is not the be all end all

My post yesterday about Common Core State Standards led to a discussion of testing and whether or not it is appropriate for students. Even though I only had eleven students my first year and twelve this past year, I believe testing is an incredibly important part of our job as educators. If we don’t test our students, then we only have a feeling of where they are and where they need to go. That’s not enough. I want evidence to share with my colleagues, my Executive Director, my students, and their parents to say “this is what we did really well,” and “this is what we need to work on for the next quarter.”

Are tests perfect? Absolutely not. Administrators and educators need to hold test companies accountable when it comes to whether or not tests meet standards and educators need to be critical of ethnic and racial bias that may come with any given test. I also know that when a kindergarten student takes a test, s/he may simply click around seriously consider the questions in front of him/her. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t test.

Now, where educators should be concerned is how a school uses its test data. This information should be used to inform practice. Effective principals should look at test data and say “this is how this classroom is doing,” “this is how our school is doing,” and “this is what I can do to steer us in the right direction.”

Too much of the discussion about testing is wrapped up in a discussion about teacher evaluations. That conversation is toxic. While I agree with the idea of teacher evaluations, I think that needs to be set aside so that we can do what’s right for kids and focus on their data and effectively using that data to help principals, teachers, and ultimately students make the most progress.

8 Responses

  1. c morgan

    I agree with you Alex on testing. I worry about dumbing down America. How sad that we don’t want to hurt children by saying you don’t have the skills to go to the next grade. Children know inuitively that they are not ready & that just leads to frustration on their part. We MUST teach them to read!!!! That is the basis for all learning. For the most part children are not stupid but we adults certainly can be. Teachers along with doctors & nurses should be the most highly esteemed & paid. In 70 yrs I’ve never waivered from that conclusion. Of course there are bad teachers but I think they are outnumbered. Kids know.

  2. meghank

    You don’t seem to understand that in public schools high-stakes testing leads inevitably, and despite what leaders promise, to year-long test prep that eventually comes to pervade every hour of every school day.

    Your kindergarten classroom sounds lovely. It is about as far from a classroom in my district (due to the emphasis on test prep) as you can get.

    • I absolutely, 100 percent understand where you’re coming from. This, like many other policy discussions, is great in theory and all too often deteriorates in practice. That’s why I wish the reform discussion would center more on school leadership and bringing accountability to our administrative offices. In my opinion, that’s where we need to see the greatest shift.

  3. meghank

    Well, the children don’t have time to wait for this miraculous shift, and there needs to be a moratorium on testing until that shift happens (if it ever does).

    • I can’t tell you how to think, but I don’t think there needs to be a moratorium on standardized tests. I think teachers and administrators need to have open discussions about what test prep looks like in their schools. In your case, I guess that would be a discussion of how you don’t want tests, period. But if that’s your view then I hope that’s a conversation that you’ve started at your school with fellow teachers, administrators, and, of course, with parents.

  4. meghank

    Yeah right. To say anything negative about testing to administrators in an urban public school environment such as mine is to incur their wrath.

    It’s far better to stay under the radar and not do the “required” testing. That way the children are better served, and your principal isn’t putting you under a microscope to make sure you test every other minute.

    It really is all about the education of the children currently under your charge. It’s not worth starting some (useless) protest movement at your school if it ruins a year of their education.

    Certainly I’ve shared my distaste for testing with fellow teachers, and they are the ones who urged me to choose the strategy I just outlined.

    I think you may not understand the climate of fear in public schools right now. Your suggestion simply sounds like it comes from another world. When principals are fired by the district for low test scores, how could you expect them to be receptive to de-emphasising test scores?

    • I understand the fear. I don’t understand why more teachers aren’t joining their union where they have one or just plain organizing where they don’t. At my school, a private school, we don’t have a union rep. We can be fired at any time. Yet, whenever we’ve had an issue, we’ve caucused and someone has stepped up to say what’s on our minds. It’s the least we can do in the interest of our students.

  5. meghank

    We have a union, and many teachers are a part of it. I am as well.

    We lost collective bargaining rights in the state of Tennessee the year before last, so being in the union doesn’t mean much anymore.

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I'm an educator, Kalamazoo College alumnus, Democrat, and proud Detroiter! Views here are my own.


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