Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Testing is Tested

The Rise of the Testing Culture As Exam-Takers Get Younger, Some Say Value is Overblown By Valerie Strauss

I’m glad to see the Washington Post tackle the subject of testing: a subject that’s pretty big in our household right now. You see I have a high school senior who’s taking the ACT (college entrance exam for you international readers) on Oct. 28 with the hopes that he’ll improve his score. This will be the third time. The first time he took the exam with no preparations or even a practice exam under his belt. Next time it was after a weeklong test prep course at a local university. And now, we hope to see his score improve by a couple of points at least. Believe it not, that makes a difference and increases the number of colleges that would consider him.

Strauss writes, “Proponents say standardized tests are the best objective tool to hold teachers and schools accountable; opponents argue that the tests prove nothing more than that some kids are better at taking tests than others.”

Strauss continues, “Ask students what they think about standardized tests and many agree with Leah Zipperstein, a junior at Colorado College. She said she remembers her teachers in Cincinnati spending weeks in middle and high school helping kids practice to pass the tests rather than teaching something more substantive.”

Here in Alabama, my own little millennial or gen next, if you will, had to pass the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE). Brilliant offspring that he is, he did. Of course, the schools spend an incredible amount of time preparing the students for the exams which are given at various times as the students progress through high school. Many chances to pass are given. Little else is done during exam weeks which I believe are in the fall and spring semesters.

Scott thought he was finished with the AHSGE since he’s passed all parts. But last week he came home with the news that the seniors were going to have to take the science test again. This time, it seems, the administrators want to use their performance to gauge whether the test is too easy or too hard. Scott says the students consider this a joke. I don’t think they plan to be helpful subjects. Why bother? Ah, my little rebel.


Dirty Butter said...

You've hit on a very sore point for me, as a retired school teacher. I hate standardized testing. I hate the time it takes away from real teaching, I hate the artificial importance it gives to one day's performance, I hate the pressure it puts on young people to perform, I hate the fact, IMVHO, that it measures such a narrow area of skills that it has little worth in the real world. There, have I made my views clear?

I had the good fortune to be on the county committee developing report cards for a four year period and was able to get the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading system extended to the Intermediate elementary grades just for that one term. It was wonderful. No pressure to test, but evaluations of each child's actual performance, improvements, and areas of need sent home, instead. Parents didn't like it - they wanted grades. Not long after that they went the other extreme and started numerical grades with 3rd thru 5th graders. Parents loved it - I hated it. Did your child know more, because they made a 93, instead of a 92? I don't think so!

Sorry for the rant, but you really hit a nerve!!!

Sheila said...

Thanks, Dirty for your passionate response which I don't consider a rant at all. I love to hear from teachers. I love you teachers (good ones)!

I think I wrote somewhere else (I'm on my soapbox today) that I wished the educational system would do testing to find out a student's learning style in order to help figure out how he or she learns better. My son learns better one-on-one in the difficult subject area of math. You'd be amazed at the difference in his performance after his paid-for-by-us math tutor has a session with him. The classroom math teacher just doesn't reach him like the tutor does.

So often in education, we stick a label on a kid or try to shoehorn him or her into a one-size fits all classroom. I don't have the answers. I only ask the questions.