Friday, August 21, 2015

This Is a Test (Unfortunately)

This summer I'm reading and commenting on the book What If Everybody Understood Child Development? by Rae Pica.

Chapter 19: The Trouble with Testing

In education today, students must endure a plethora of standardized testing. According to one study, the average student is tested once a month (and may be tested up to twice a month)! That's a lot of number 2 pencils.

Testing has become the "to go" option, the way to find out how schools/teachers are doing and what is working or not working. The problem? Testing itself doesn't work. Standardized tests are terrible predictors of educational success or intelligence. Testing doesn't reveal or promote divergent, independent, creative thinking.

Rae Pica writes: "Standardized tests do not require the understanding, creative thinking, analysis, synthesis, or application of information that are the hallmarks of in-depth thinking (you know, the kind we need to continue to innovate and prosper.)"

Test paper in 1st grade (Brick by Brick)

Tests amp up everyone's anxiety. Students are anxious about taking the test (especially when it's been communicated HOW IMPORTANT it is). Parents and teachers are anxious about the effects and atmosphere for the children. And then, when the results come in, more anxiety.

The problem with those results? Little can be extrapolated from them. A test only shows a snapshot of the student at that moment in time. If the test had been on a different day or a different time of day, if the student had a different start to his day or the room had been different - if any of these things had been different, the results may have been different. A test is only a snapshot of a moment. How can we base so many decisions and conclusions on a snapshot.

A couple of years ago, my second grade class was taking a practice test, to prepare for the "real" test. We had to sit for a hour (at least), in silence, working in a booklet to complete the test. One boy sat at a table and was making some noise and not working. I went to him to talk and get him back on task. As we talked, he said, "I just can't do this. I'm not smart. I can't." That's the trouble with testing.

Some links from the book---

And a few more---

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