Friday, March 25, 2011

One Teacher's Rambling: Why the Tests Matter

This is a guest blog graciously written by Nealey, who is a secondary school teacher.  She brings up some excellent points.  None of us want the standardized tests to matter, but the fact is that they do in many ways. I hope she'll write more posts in the future!

Parents: Don’t tell your children that the standardized tests don’t matter.

Standardized tests do matter, but unfortunately the system is flawed.  One of the problems with the tests is that students are not held accountable for their test scores.   In an ideal world, all students would do their best because of the intrinsic value in doing one’s best.  If every student actually did their best then the tests might be a valuable way to judge teachers, schools, and educational programs.  However, we don't live in an ideal world. During testing, some student try their best, other students half-heartedly try, and some students don't try at all.  I have seen students bubble in patterns, bubble in all one letter and even once a student that didn't bubble anything, put his head down and took a nap for the entire time he was required to be in the room for testing.

While students are not held accountable for their test scores, their teachers, schools and school districts are. What I am seeing more and more are teachers that are teaching to the test; they teach only the facts that they will be tested on and skip everything else because it has been deemed by the state as not as important.  It has taken away teacher creativity and, in my opinion, has made the teaching process and learning process far less fun.  I have heard stories of elementary school teachers who don't even teach science or history anymore because the kids aren’t tested in science until 5th grade and history in 6th grade.  When I taught 8th grade science at a middle school in Northern California, I only had half a year to teach an entire year’s worth of curriculum.  The district had cut back science and social studies to 1 semester each and the students were taking 2 periods of math and 2 periods of English every day to bring up test scores.  So, when students tell me that the STAR tests don’t matter I get so furious because it DOES matter to those students who are taking twice as much math and English every day.

Standardized testing is not a perfect system, and unfortunately I don’t know what the solution is to fix it. But that doesn’t change that fact that I still think it’s important.  Low tests scores directly affect schools and students.  The tests are not going away.  Hopefully they are not here to stay, but for now, they are here and telling our children that the tests don’t matter is not going to make them go away.

One year ago: My Kids
Three years ago: Formaldehyde

Five years ago: Resiliency

 If your children do poorly on the STAR test and your school’s API (that means STAR test score) goes down, then your district will be considered a bad district and people will move out of the bad district and take their kids to other better districts with higher API's and the property value on your house will go down.  Conversely, if your students do their best on the STAR test and their test scores go up, then people will want to send their children to that school and the property values will go up. I am no economist but I'm pretty sure it's supply and demand.

If you’re a parent who  doesn’t like standardized testing and thinks that the system is flawed and wants to see a change, the worst thing you can do is tell you child that the tests don’t matter.  Write letter to your governor, call your congressman’s office, go to school board meetings and voice your concerns.  It is through these actions that we might be able to make a change in the system.
One year ago: My Kids

Three years ago: Yes, There is Still Racism in America

Five years ago: Resiliency

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