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Friday, May 12, 2017

Thoughts about Standardized Tests: MCAS 2017

I continue to be a fan of streamlined standardized testing, yet I see lots of room for growth when it comes to standardized tests.

Let's start with the positives. This is what I like about the tests:

  • Provides common goals, content, and data points to discuss and build upon
  • Creates needed focus on essential skills and knowledge--before the tests, many students who could not read, write, or compute were not regarded with care or commitment
Also, as of late, there have been some positive changes with regard to the tests including:
  • The online tests are easier to give and hopefully cost less since the information is easier to analyze.
  • The online tests are promoting greater technology in all schools
There's lots of room for growth with regard to what's included in standardized tests and how they are given. In the future we will look back at these tests are archaic, but it is a process to develop the tests in ways that are valuable and enriching for learning. I can envision the following ways to improve the tests.
  • The tests have to become progressive. It is unfair to expect all students at a given age to master same contents in same ways. The tests should show us where students are on a trajectory of skill and knowledge, and the tests should be used as one data point to help us ensure that all students have a strong foundation of academic knowledge and skill.
  • The tests are too "flat," and for that reason their importance should be scaled down in time and weight with regard to the teaching/learning program. So many of our students' strengths, talents, and interests are not represented on these two-dimensional tests, and it's not fair to give tests like these so much of the teaching/learning resources including time, money, and ratings
  • The tests should not be used to rate communities or schools, but instead as one data point to determine how our students are developing with basic skills and knowledge. The tests could be part of an overall school/system-evaluation that includes other factors such as inclusion of the arts, cultural proficiency efforts, sports/physical fitness, and social/emotional learning/support.
Similar to most constructs in our culture, it's best to develop rather than destroy the efforts to date. Where are tests useful and where our these tests without merit? How can we develop this in ways that matter.

Long before we had standardized tests, I noticed that students who were not achieving were not getting the attention they deserved. One important change I've noticed since the tests is that more children are getting more attention. I think this is good, but I also recognize that there's continued room for improvement and development on how we use testing in schools.