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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Standardized Tests: To Test or Not to Test

Testing season has begun and the extra burden of this time of year is beginning to be felt. The testing season tries the system like a heavy weight. Supports such as planning periods, specialist/assistant help, tech share and the routine as we know it change at times, and this challenges the regular teaching/learning.

Testing is challenging to educators too as we watch our students take the test. Some take the tests with ease and others struggle a lot--there's great variability. As we watch, we think about what we did throughout the year to ready students for the tests, and what we may do to prepare them more. There's also worry because as educators we are judged, in part, by students' scores. If students do well, we are left alone for the most part, but if they don't do well, then we typically face all kinds of extra oversight and direction.

There's also the hurry to fit it all in. While our curriculum extends to June, the tests occur in May. While it's only a few weeks difference, it remains difficult to fit all the standards in during the year since there are many and the depth is great. Some may reply, then let's extend the year, but there's an optimal pattern of learning and if you try to cram students with too much new learning, it simply backfires. The most elite schools typically have less time on task and more vacation time, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of complaint about how much those students learn. There is variability here too. Some children come to the grade level with extensive knowledge or readiness for the standards, and others do not which affects test results.

It's important for educators not to let the tests get to them, though this is difficult to do.

While I see some good in the tests, I do think there are too many, and I wish they were structured more in a progressive way where children could test up as they achieve new levels of learning rather than testing solely by age group or grade level. I also think that we should evaluate clearly the value of the tests in connection to the money spent, impact on students' academic development, and a students' future happiness and success. I would say I am a fan of streamlined testing and varied assessments throughout the year that are used to inform and better instruction and learning, not to rate and

There's much to think about here, and I expect I'll think and write some more about this during the test season. What's most important is that we do our best to stay calm and ride the waves of the season--teachers are human too, and we can strive to do our best, but we can't do the impossible. Onward.