I read a recent post from Karl Fisch's The Fischbowl regarding testing and the value we place on testing.
I have always felt as though I was one of those teachers who did not place a lot of value in test scores because there are so many factors that contribute to students doing well or doing poorly on them. For example, some of the contributing factors that pop into my mind are that we over test kids (in one year alone kids take PSAT, CSAP, MAP testing as well as all the other classroom tests), maybe they didn't eat breakfast that day, maybe they had a bad experience with a friend or parent before the test, the test doesn't measure learning but rather regurgitation, etc. I really could go on forever about testing; HOWEVER, and I mean a big HOWEVER, I do feel that I am slightly hypocritical about test scores when it comes to my own child.
When looking for a school for Emma and Jackson to attend, we of course looked at what school would be best for as kids and learners. We wanted a school that would meet all their needs? And, sadly, what school had the best test scores. I know it is not something I value or want to say I support, but I have to admit I looked up the school's scores on CSAP. Do I think CSAP accurately measures learning for every child? I don't think it does. I know growing up, I was not a good test taker. I talked myself out of correct answers on tests time and again.
So why do I place value on them? I guess part of it, is that I don't have time to go and sit down in classrooms at the elementary school level to see if it is the best possible learning environment for my child so I must rely on other resources to aide my decision. I know I should make time, but I trust that these tests as well as other factors (i.e. talking with other parents, administrators, teachers) will help me make the right decisions for my kids.
So, what does this mean for the world? I feel as though we are moving in a direction that puts more and more emphasis on testing and accountability regardless of what that means to the kids. I do think the tests can be valuable for the students if time is given for teachers to talk about the tests, and that the kids are not over tested. I fear however, we are heading in this direction-over testing! On a personal note, I recently learned that my kindergartners, Emma and Jackson, are actually going to be tested during the beginning and end of the school years. I thought to myself, they are only starting school and they are already measuring and assessing them.
So, what can be done? I am not sure. Is that we as a society need to start placing less emphasis on test results? That we need to trust that teachers are doing their jobs and students are doing their jobs. I worry sometimes that blame is placed heavily on teachers and administrators for not doing their job when we don't consider that the students are the ones actually sitting down and taking the test. Teachers and administrators can provide all the instruction and guidance in the world, but it is up to the student to apply their knowledge and understanding.
I guess I don't have answers to testing, to measuring kids and schools via testing, but what I do know is that it is time to start having these conversations about overtesting, purposes behind all the tests we administer, and where to go from here.