This I Believe

Testing, testing, one, too much.

“Sometimes, the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds.” 
Diane Ravitch

The third graders are lined up to take the state standardized test, Chromebooks clutched to their chests. They walk solemnly into the library, where the walls are empty of anything that might give them a clue to the answers on this high-stakes test. They sit down at tables, with privacy screens set to enclose their workspace. The teacher and the aide make sure each child is logged in correctly and they cross their fingers that the network won’t crash while the students are taking the test.

The children are given a cue and they start their tests. In no time at all, several sets of eyes glass-over as they try to make sense of what is on the screen. Many children start to squirm in their seats. A hand here or there is raised, but the teacher reminds the children she cannot help or answer questions. After a while, two or three children begin to cry.

This is the world of standardized testing. These children, starting at age 8, must take these high-stakes tests. Their educational careers, and that of their teachers, depend on it. This, I believe, is wrong.

What do these tests measure? Do they help a teacher or school improve? Do they help students improve their learning? I believe that we overtest our children, using tests we don’t understand and that don’t help students, teachers, or schools improve.

Yes, assessment is important. It is imperative as educators that we document our students’ learning. We need to know if our students understand what we are teaching and if our students are making academic gains. Standardized tests don’t measure that — they are simply a snapshot of what a child can do on that one day. They show which students have the ability to take tests on computers or by filling in bubbles.

Teachers have better, more authentic ways to show students’ abilities and gains. Ways that can help students and parents understand learning and improvement. Ways that help support and student and give them pride in themselves and their achievements. Ways that are ongoing and meaningful. However, these methods may not give the powers that be data in a format that allows for easy comparison between students, teachers, and schools.

As teachers, I believe we must continue to stand together to call for change in testing requirements. We need to educate parents, administrators, and legislators on developmentally appropriate ways to assess our students that don’t traumatize them. We need to work for what is in the best interest of every child with whom we work.

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