This article was written by Andy McCall. Andy is in his 9th year teaching, and does everything to honor his little girl, Penelope, who passed last year. Check him out on his Blog or on Facebook: Penelope's Path.
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Don’t lie, when you saw the words standardized testing you probably cringed just a little bit. The very thought of it evoked a thought bubble that would more than likely get you fired. I can’t think of one teacher that sits there and says to themselves, “You know what, I can’t wait for this upcoming year. That standardized testing is just going to make this whole year worth it!”
I understand that the “powers that be” need some type of number to put in front of themselves to make them feel good about sitting in their big office, full of office supplies someone else bought, and never coming by a classroom to see that those numbers are actual faces. They are real students with real life things going on. They are not a number and they sure are nowhere near standard. They are unique, creative, powerful, broken, hungry, happy, and tested excessively. There are numerous studies on why some of these aren’t valid, but to a teacher, they can be summed up in 5 T’s:
Time is something teachers don’t have a lot of during the day. These tests take a whole lot of time from the students and teachers both. The test itself takes days, even weeks, from the students. It takes time that they could be exploring, creating, or inventing instead of making their marks heavy and dark. The teachers have to pre-scan, pre-read instructions, pass out the tests, reread the instructions, sit quietly as they stare at the wall, take them up, file them correctly, etc. The time spent on reviews, emails, and testing meetings take away from all the other million things we would rather be doing for our students. Time is precious and shouldn’t be spent sharpening enough pencils to get your students through the next 6 hours of testing.
2. Teaching to the test
We all don’t want to do it and shy away from anything that resembles it for most of the year. At some point though, when the reminders start dinging from your emails, you try to give your kids the best shot possible. I know, right about now some of you all are firing back with, “I don’t do that and never will.” I am sure though at one point before that test comes out, you are reviewing like crazy, all those concepts from those cool lessons. You’d never do that in the middle of March if it wasn’t for the test. Instead of keeping the lessons rolling, we have to stop and relive those days before college finals. Cram everything we know into 4 one-hour tests, which is so legit right?
The emotional problems that come with testing are in no way helping students and teachers. It is like a Pepto Bismol on steroids, and that is just during the test. No child should have to wake up in the morning crying and dread school because they are worried about a test. Where did the education system lose the sight of what is best for kids? It was probably in all those statistics instead of students and numbers instead of names. Don’t forget about the teachers emotional issues with all this too. Our jobs depend on the performance of these crying and worked up kids. That alone makes for a classroom environment that is unstable and unhealthy.
4. Turn Around
This is the part that infuriates me as a teacher as much as anything. We are expected to have all this information taught, tested, and turned in by a certain date, but are given no answer to when they will get back to us. If we are given an ESTIMATED date of return, it is usually wrong or only includes on set of tests. Some of these grades come in after the student has moved onto the next grade, but are still expected by the State to be incorporated at some ridiculous percentage?!?! How is any part of this valid. How about I start estimating when I’m going to come in and teach class? What if I turned all my grades in two weeks after graduation? I’m sure it wouldn’t end well for me. Sometimes I want to turn them around and tell them where they can put that test.
The truth is we should do away with all these tests. The truth is these testing companies are making money off of a product that harms kids. The truth is there isn’t much truth in all those numbers. The truth is we are all sick and tired of being sick and tired of these tests. The truth is I don’t want to sit there and watch my kids stress out over something that doesn’t tell me if they really understand the concept or not. The truth is none of the marks are heavy and dark, there are drawings on the page that says DO NOT MARK ON THIS PAGE, and I don’t believe for a second that you can judge me off what my kids mark. You can take all these truths and still say they are valid ways of judging students, but I’m marking False.