Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Strange days indeed -- strange days indeed...
John Lennon, you had NO idea..
February is nearly over and as March begins students will be assessed on their progress using the state test. They will be taking three reading tests and three math tests as fifth graders. Some are multiple-choice, while others require written responses. I’m fairly confident that they will all do well provided they take the test seriously. Once testing is complete and tests are sent in, scores should be available by June. Teachers, schools and parents will all be given the results. Scores will be published for schools and districts, ranking performance. While I understand the need for standardized tests, I feel the weight of the testing, as do my students. Expectations are set high. Assessments are an important part of instruction, but the ones that allow me to access student progress and adjust instruction accordingly are much more valuable than these one-size-fits-all assessments. Scores aren’t available until my students have already advanced to the next grade.
An added worry crosses my mind as I think about how our state will be using our test scores as a portion of our evaluation. Our jobs will increasingly depend on maintaining high scores. Will our instruction change to one where we focus more on this high-stakes test and less on differentiation? I hope not, but I’ve seen the signs in so many places. What happens when you have a year where student scores are low based on their ability or test anxiety?
I wish there was a way to evaluate students, mark their growth and help them learn without forcing them to take these cookie-cutter like assessments. I learn so much more from assessments given throughout the year where I am able to adjust instruction to meet the needs of individual students. We are living in the information age, not the industrial age. The assembly-line mentality behind standardized tests should be replaced with a more flexible, authentic, student-centered model.
I’m stepping off my soapbox now with a sad shake of my head and knowing that once March 14th arrives we will all be free of these assessments for another year. The ten weeks after will be spent on instruction that will prepare my students for the next steps on their educational journey. No more bubbling in the best answer, but truly thinking.