Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Standardized Testing at What Cost?

Just spend five minutes reading teaching blogs at this time of year and it is difficult to escape the dread and dismay that is running rampant through many of our hearts...Yep, it's testing time!
Standardized test
I know that many of you have already completed your required round of testing or maybe (like me) had your testing earlier in the year, but there are still plenty of teachers out there who are waiting for our students to have the chance to show what they know (or don't know, or forgot, or panicked about and just weren't sure...).

When I think about the amount of learning time that is lost as we prepare for testing, it really brings me down. Some teachers spend weeks preparing students for the state test in the form of boot camps, test prep, after school tutoring, etc.  
  • Is this time well spent? 
  • Do student scores reflect the time, effort, and stress that both the student and the teacher put into the preparation?
  • What other learning opportunities are being missed at the sake of this prep work and the time spent testing?

I was listening to a podcast on my way to school this morning about how the loss of creativity in schools can be partially attributed to standardized testing.  I recommend listening if you are interested in this topic.

Standardized testing is summative.  (One administrator I know calls it an "autopsy.")  These tests often measure material and skills that were taught months ago.  They can be nit-picky, pulling isolated skills from the depths of the curriculum.  Unfortunately, they do not measure skills like creativity, practical problem solving, or team work.

And aren't these the skills that are necessary for future employment and success in life?

What are the benefits of this standardized testing?  Hmmm...

There is a new(er) wave in education that I am learning about that is based on these skills of creativity, practical problem solving, and team work -- project based learning (PBL).

PBL offers lots of opportunities for assessment, but not for testing.  Due to the nature of the projects, you can't give a one-size-fits-all test to the entire class based on PBL.  But you CAN assess how students are mastering the standards and learning objectives through creativity, team work, and problem solving.  You can provide students with immediate feedback on their learning, not results that come six months after you send your tests back to the state.  This is assessment for learning, growth, and active engagement -- assessment for important life skills.

For now, there is not a lot we teachers can do about standardized testing other than just try to get through it and hope for the best. As we remind our students, the best is all anyone can try to do.


  1. I so agree with you but unfortunately no one ever involves actual teachers in the standardized testing decision making. I really wish the "powers that be" would actually come spend some time in a teaching position for a month and then be assessed by their students' progress on a standardized test they did not make and see how that works out for them. THEN they *might* realize their folly.

  2. Agreed. On Day 3 of Day 6 right now................over it.
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. I know this is sooooo last week, but I wanted to let you know how much I LOVE your thinking!!! First of all PBL is so fun because it is interest driven and when students are interested they are engaged! Which is something that is always a struggle, so PBL is a great way to remove one of the struggles we face in the classroom. However, it is messy.....so I can only do it in small bits because I only have energy for so much. :/
    Secondly, there are some things we can do about testing:
    1. Join: http://testingtalk.org/ and share your experiences with testing.
    2. Continue supporting each other's teacher created materials that you find on blog's like this or TPT. If you don't like something about the materials give the person that feedback. I'm sure they will listen UNLIKE Pearson.
    3. That leads me to the final point, do your best to support smaller businesses / publishing houses when purchasing books. Large corporations like Pearson are the machines behind testing and if we continue to purchase from them (with school dollars or our own) we are also supporting testing.
    Thanks for words, Jennifer, they inspire me!


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