March 25, 2012

Too Much Testing?

It's been a long three weeks of standardized assessments.  All this testing has me thinking, how much is too much?  At what point does the quantity of assessment outweigh the quality, purpose, and time apart from instruction?  With 27 school days interrupted by standardized testing this school year, when is enough finally enough?

District and state mandated testing serves a purpose of Data collection to measure student achievement and growth.  However, 27 days of testing throughout the year seems ludicrous.  It feels a little disheartening being in a position where there isn't much I can do about the quantity of tests, except to trust that my students are confident in the skills being assessed and how to follow the directions to take the test.  This year, the 27 days of assessment does not include the time spent preparing students on the "how to" of test taking.  My students take their first (of many...) content based state mandated standardized tests in 3rd grade and much of the preparation is simply about how to be successful with the directions and procedure of taking the test.

This past week, my 3rd grades took a state mandated reading test, which, if a student doesn't pass this test the student must be retained in 3rd grade.  No pressure, right?  There was a huge elephant in the classroom all week about the "consequences" that go along with this test.  We did not discuss the retention consequence in my classroom for a number of reasons, but I disagree with the scare tactics of this kind of testing.  

So, when we're not testing students to threaten retention, the assessments are justified as Data collection to measure growth.  Oh data/Data, you are double-edged sword when it comes to the standardized test.  On one hand, I have no choice but to accept the Data because the tests are normed and this is necessary Data I must have for purposes of my state's new teacher evaluation system (that's a whole other post...).  On the other hand, the consistent interruption of instruction to collect Data seems to defeat the purpose-- instruction.  

Assessment absolutely has its purpose, but the purpose needs to be student focused.  Matt at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah writes concisely and eloquently about data and Data:
Any dedicated teacher who truly wants to inspire the greatest achievement in her students understands the value of good data. I get this kind of data from quizzes, conversations with students, observations of what they’re saying and doing, homework, and exit slips. When I interpret the data, I am able to determine what my next steps should be for individuals and the whole class. This is what is meant by “data-driven instruction.”
You see how nice it is? Don’t you want to cuddle up with some data and figure out how it’s going to help you better teach your students? Of course, you already do, and you do it reflexively. I know you do because you understand its value. Any teacher who uses data would be considered in tune with student needs and is actively considering every student’s unique situation. This takes skill and dedication and teachers who use data to figure out next steps ought to be celebrated because they are truly tailoring their instruction to meet students where they are.
Data with a capital d serves a whole other purpose and has an entirely different value, neither of which have been determined yet! It seems that Data is mainly used to point out just how awful teachers like you and me are. That’s because Data essentially amounts to student standardized test scores. Unfortunately, too many know-it-alls in the reform dialogue don’t know what to you, me, and most is self-evident: all students are not the same!  (read the whole post)

The humanity of our profession is lost when students are tested simply to collect numbers, numbers then used to bucket and label student achievement and potential, or used to measure teacher effectiveness (I argue this is also known as "how well students can take the test.").  I'm tired of testing, testing, testing for the sake of Data, and tired of having to tell my students that this is just the way it is and what they have to do.

Sadly, teacher's perspectives on the subject of standardized testing often falls on deaf ears with the powers that be.  Students and their parents are overwhelmed with the amount of standardized testing and theirs are the voices that also need to be heard.

What are your views of standardized testing, "data-driven instruction," and Data collecting?  When is enough, enough?

No comments:

Post a Comment