One to two hour standardized tests were something I remember taking once a year for math and reading, actually I think they were not even given EVERY year – just every two or three. Because a couple of hours every couple of years did not take away from my education so much, I never really understood what all of the hoopla about standardized testing was until my own children entered school. Last year my kindergartener took the MAP test and a Northwest something or other. This year my fifth grader has already taken MAP, STAR, and MSP tests. When we lived in California, she took MAP tests three times a year starting in first grade and the STAR test once a year starting in second grade. I recently learned the MSP can sometimes take the entire school day! I had no idea! My daughter is a really good student and writer, and she told me the fourth grade writing MSP took her almost the entire school day. This year many of her peers took almost the whole day on the fifth grade science MSP. Now, I am rethinking these tests!!! This seems really extreme, and she is a top student in a high performing school, so I cannot imagine what students are experiencing to whom academics do not come so easily.
So, what is the solution? Different shorter tests? Terry Meier states in the article “Why Standardized Tests Are Bad?” that “any knowledge worth having is inextricably linked to culture and context – and thus can’t be reduced to measurement on a standardized test.” (ROC, Vol.1 p. 204) She also points out that the content of questions is not necessarily “relatable cross culturally,” and that “test items are deliberately selected so as to maximize differences between high and low scorers. By design only some people will do well on the tests.” (p.204) Shouldn’t it be possible for ALL children, regardless of their cultural background, to succeed on these tests? I thought that was our country’s goal.
Is it important to be able to compare students across cities, states, and the nation? How do teachers use test scores to help their students’ improve? Do they get to see the questions the student missed? I do not think the students ever get to see what they missed. How can everyone learn from their mistakes and improve? There has to be a way for teachers to assess their students, and there should be away for students to assess themselves as well, but it does not seem like students and teachers are making more progress as a result of standardized testing. In “Basketball and Portfolios” Linda Christensen states, “I am not interested in reducing my students to a single digit. I am concerned about their growth in writing and thinking.” (ROC, Vol.2, p. 208) She teaches her students to self-assess which “provides a space for student and teacher to reflect on change and growth . . . as well as pointing out a trajectory for future work.” (p.208) Another educator, Bob Peterson uses a “structured project approach” with a core set of requirements and options for additional work. (ROC, Vol.2, p. 214) “When parents . . . and community leaders see the concrete work of students at exhibitions, people don’t feel as compelled to support test-based ‘accountability’ schemes.”
I have a lot of questions surrounding this issue and am interested to see what I think when I become a teacher. For now, I am open to finding new ways of assessing students!