Standardized Testing through the eyes of a 5th grade teacher.
This is my first time ever writing a blog and I must say, it’s a bit intimidating to put my thoughts out there for the world to read and react to. However, just as I encourage my students to go beyond their comfort zone, so too will I.
I’d like to take just a minute and declare that this publication will not be completely of my own work, links are included to the resources I’ve used to help create and share my opinions.
What role should standardized tests play in education? This is the assignment I was tasked with this week and as I reflect on that question I find myself befuddled. On one hand, I completely feel that standardized testing is a great tool to use to drive teachers to constantly push themselves in the classroom. I don’t mean that to sound like they should be afraid or intimidated by the “ominous dark cloud” of a standardized test towards the end of the year. Rather, I mean teaching to the standards set by their school district and doing everything they can to help students reach those standards. On the flip side of that coin, I feel that what standardized tests have become are more of a measure of the teacher, than the student.
In my first few years as a teacher, my teammates would often bring up the NeSA or the Nebraska State Accountability tests that come in the late spring. It was brought up so much that I found myself looking to the guidelines that fell under those different tests and soon I felt like my students and I were going round and round with skills that I was worried they wouldn’t have mastered by April. I was so worried about those tests that I wasn’t worried about the process of learning, I was worried only about the outcome. It wasn’t until I went to my mentor teacher (within my building but a different grade level) and had him explain to me to look at the standards for my subject areas, and use those to help the students achieve high marks. I got caught up and felt as though I was failing my students. Do I think that standardized testing is leading teachers to “Drill n’ Kill”? Maybe to some degree, yes.
Now that I’ve gained some experience in my profession, my views on standardized testing has changed… a little. I feel that throughout the course of the year, we practice so many different skills and strategies on a variety of tests that don’t hold as much water, that students should be prepared for any kind of standardized test simply because of all of the other types of tests they’ve taken. I for one, teach my students test taking skills all the time. We have discussions before spelling tests, multiple choice tests, and essay tests, just to name a few. Of course, test taking anxiety is very real for some students. But, Yana Weinstein and Megan Smith of the Boston Globe suggest that we use that anxiety as a way to challenge students to do better. “Teachers and parents can also try to redirect some of that anxiety, a tactic that makes students feel more confident and actually perform better on high-stakes tests.” I like to tell my students that these tests shouldn’t make you feel nervous, they should make you feel like you’ve just stepped up to the plate and are ready to hit a home run.
To start wrapping things up, What Role Should Standardized Testing Play in Education? I think it’s role in education should be to give a general idea of where students are at, just as it does. I don’t think much needs to change for them, what I feel needs to be modified is the public and professional perception of standardized testing. It is often brought up that teachers need to be on the hook if their students aren’t passing these tests, but what about that teacher who has a room with multiple IEPs or 504 plans? How about the teacher that has multiple students that are in all of the interventions they can be, and should probably receive resource help, but their IQ discrepancy isn’t enough for them to qualify? I’m sure a great deal of the public or the “rule makers” for education aren’t even sure what some of that really means. In Testing, One Size May Not Fit All, I’ve heard this said several times, and there’s an image out there too that shows how many view standardized testing and it made me laugh the first time I saw it.
In conclusion, standardized testing is not a horrible thing like some like to make it out to be, but it is not a perfect entity either. It has a place in education and from what I’ve found in my own classroom, downplaying the tests to something less intimidating than an elephant or fish trying to climb a tree, the better my students feel as they go to hit their home run.