Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by otterpop, Mar 13, 2017.
Mar 13, 2017
Mar 14, 2017
I'm right there with you. I feel like my school really tries to do what's best for kids as much as we can. Even so, we do a whole lot of testing and test prep, lots of computerized tests and practice tests. It seems like they are just constantly testing or getting ready to test or talking about the test that they just took. I wonder when they ever get a chance to learn the stuff that they're being tested on.
I know some here will disagree with me, but I think these tests are pushing concepts earlier and earlier beyond what most kids are developmentally ready for, no matter how bright they are. And this applies to the early grades that aren't even being tested. I have seen some of the stuff we ask kindergarteners, who then get stuck in intervention when they can't answer a convulated question.
I am pretty good with words and grammar, so I can usually work my way through a complex sentence or question. Even so, some of the questions on these tests (and I've only seen the practice tests) give me pause. I wonder how confusing they must be for students if even I have to read them four or five times to figure out what is being asked.
I'll just leave this right here:
Poet stumped by standardized test questions about her own poem
You're definitely not alone. I primarily teach 3rd and 4th grade and our curriculum there isn't too bad, but I also push-in some of the day with 1st grade. We just started using a new curriculum with K-2 and it's brutal - takes up a huge amount of time (not including guided reading independent reading, or usually, writing so those require additional time), moves at a very fast pace, is written at a level that's too high for most of the kids to read independently, and is very hard to modify for different learners or tie into IEP goals. (That last one is something we've been squabbling back and forth about with the higher ups all year long.) It's very high for our high-achieving kids. My special ed babies are completely lost. It probably is preparing them for state tests down the road but only in the way that passages on state tests are also developmentally inappropriate, confusing, and un-engaging.
I realize the tests are supposedly to fix our broken educational system, but I (and other researchers I've read) question if the system was ever broken to begin with. (I find it interesting that countries that supposedly teach better than the U.S. also seek to modify their educational system to be more like the U.S.). Surely there will always be room for improvement, and research has shown many unique ways to improve teaching, but I question if restricting student learning by enforcing specified statistical accomplishment is effective. The brain learns holistically; learning can produce results on tests, but if the students are mostly trained to produce such results, learning is limited to what can raise statistics. I fear we're regressing back to the lab rat experiments. Just as one trains an animal, a student can be trained to perform on a test, but did that student develop academically, or did s/he just learn to do tricks?
Look at the accomplishments from our supposedly broken educational system. We've produced great literature, great medical and other scientific discoveries, great musical compositions, flourishing businesses. It was our educational system that led to the development of Google. We've even landed on the moon! True, other countries have also accomplished such, and that's fantastic! Our educational system and theirs have even produced a collaboration in scientific achievement.
There is some lack of progress in U.S. education, but it's not coming from the schools and it's not coming from the highly trained and amazingly professional teachers. It's coming from distractions outside of school. When kids waste too much time watching TV and playing video games, when kids suffer from the illegal drug culture, when parents entertain themselves by making their kids drunk, when kids eat more McDonald's than brain healthy whole grains, fruits and vegetables, that's the problem that achievement tests can't fix.
I agree with this 100%. I'm about to start doing fractions with my 2nd graders... never mind the fact that I have about 8 out of 25 kids who are so low in math that a few don't even KNOW all their numbers, they can't count consistently, and have no number sense... but they're supposed to be able to know what part of a number is? Yeah. That's gonna go well.
We try to do missing addend equations and all I can think is that missing addends are what I did for 3rd grade math when I was in school... and I only remember because it was on weekly math sheets that my district had, and my 2nd grade teacher was giving me 3rd grade math because ours were too easy.
There's so much pressure for kids to perform well that there's no time to really master the basics - and I don't have time as a teacher to go back and reteach because there's too much.
I too have a few kids in among my second graders who are only barely beginning to grasp number sense. Of course, I'm taking them to the child assessment team, but part of me wonders if even a few years ago that would have been jumping the gun. I was student teaching 10 years ago in first grade with goals of mastering certain things that now kindergarteners are expected to know before they enter... and few do. It's all getting pushed earlier and earlier and we wonder why the kids are failing at it.
I also swear missing addendends was at least 3rd grade when I was a kid in the 90s.
One of the questions was asking about the effect of the rhythm and rhyme on the author's central message - and honestly, I couldn't think of where to start explaining that. These are nine year olds, for goodness sake.
Mar 15, 2017
My question is, what's the rush? It's true, newborn babies can think arithmetically, but are we going to hand new mothers a math book to begin with the next day? (Oh, wait! Perhaps I shouldn't have said that. It might give someone an idea). Back to my thoughts, though, a two-year-old has over 100,000,000,000,000 synapses, twice as many as an adult, but does that mean they should be entering into college? (I can see it now; March madness will go from basketball to bouncy balls).
We have a similar standard about how rhyme and figurative language supply meaning to a song/poem/story... I barely taught it because *I* don't even really know what that means. :/
I ended up teaching about a few different kinds of poetry but we moved on really quickly.
It is looking like Ohio might, if not come full circle, at least stop putting all emphasis on standardized testing.
Perhaps other states will start considering the same thing.
Mar 17, 2017
I agree with you! Why do we need so much data to prove what we already know. Data really isn't driving my instruction. I mean it is but it isn't! I wish we could just restart and let school be a fun learning hands one socializing kinda place.
I use all kinds of data to drive my instruction. But, the SBAC test that students take is useless. We don't get the results until the following fall, which means they do me no good.
Mar 18, 2017
I agree that the standardized data can be useful for an individual teacher. I use the previous year's data as a guide with my incoming students throughout the year. I believe the problem exists in how other groups interpret the data. If other sciences interpreted data the way educational standardized tests are interpreted, we'd never have progressed as far as we have.
First of all, from my observation, standardized testing is not always standardized. Of course, it is expected that not all conditions can be controlled, but often teachers do not follow the directions that they can control. Some teachers do not post a sign on the door as directed in tests. Some do not read the instructions verbatim when directed to do so. Some provide extra examples on how to complete a page. Some do not schedule the subtests as directed. All of these actions skew the results against the standard. (In addendum, computerized testing does eliminate some of the above alterations, but not all of them).
But the worst infraction is within the interpretation. One test does not a conclusion make. Correlation does not necessarily prove a conclusion, either. I'll never forget how this was drilled into us in my experimental procedures class in college. Children know more about why this type of interpretation is invalid than some adults; they tell the joke, "Why are carrots good for your eyes? Because you never see a rabbit wearing glasses."
Preparation for standardized tests also skew the results. Some schools "succeed" due to this preparation, but it is a specified type of instruction which results in increasing test scores, not an instruction towards overall intellectual progress. Teaching to the test involves classical and operant conditioning for limited brain development and rehearsal of just those basic skills needed for the test. In contrast, practical instruction involves a holistic obtainment of brain development. In other words, the goal is not just to fill in circles correctly. The goal is to develop enough knowledge throughout the entire taxonomy of learning which will, if need be, enable the student to fill in the correct circles.
I don't think of the annual state test that way... as something that will or will not inform my instruction. Obviously, as you indicated, it won't. So, I look at - and I tell my students to look at it - as something that shows the community, the state, and the country how great we are and what we know and can do at our school. I tell them to think of it the way they think of a big soccer game. They practice and prepare for it all season, and then they go out and try to do their best. That's how I think of the test.
I also don't have a problem with a bit of test prep. I think it's the right thing to do. The kids are going to be faced with standardized tests throughout their young adult lives (to get into college, to enter certain careers, etc.), and I think it's a disservice to not talk to them about how to take a standardized test and how to answer the questions on it. Of course, they need authentic learning opportunities and instruction in critical thinking skills, too, but I don't have an issue with a few days or lessons on standardized test prep, especially when we're talking about students who are going to take that kind of test for the first time. They need to know how to navigate it.
Mar 19, 2017
Bella84, you bring up a good and valid counterpoint. I wonder, however, if people are perceiving standardized tests with an awe of undeserved omniscience. I read somewhere, but I can't recall where, that Albert Einstein couldn't pass a college entrance exam. He certainly wasn't considered a model college student in his day, but without his discoveries, we probably wouldn't be writing on this forum.
I have read this article before. I think it speaks volumes about the types of questions asked.
Mar 25, 2017
This is a start in the right direction, but unfortunately it does not address Ohio's third grade reading guarantee; if a student does not pass the reading test, they don't go to 4th grade.
Mar 28, 2017
When the Common Core was rolled out it was supposed to get rid of "test prep." Instead many schools overreacted to the testing by buying up as much test prep materials as they could and stealing as much time in the curriculum. We were supposed to put more time into actual literacy across all subjects.
The main problem with the test prep materials, beyond that they are boring no matter what you do, is that skill of standardized testing must be layered on top of being a good reader in a wide variety of text and content. Without being a good reader the test prep materials push a student's score minimally.
Instead we need to be deepening our curriculum in content and complexity. I find standardized tests very, very useful as both a curriculum review, in NY we get June Instructional reports on state test results school wide, and as an insight into how the State assesses a standard. Standardized tests cannot be compared to in class assessments. Text complexity and question complexity vary as to separate students. There are harder passages for a reason. Questions covering the same standards are asked at different levels of difficulty. This reasoning is what gives schools the justification of labeling a level 4 as "above grade level" or "exceeding grade level standards." When teachers grade we don't usually give out assessments that would actually assess that, but we label a 4 that anyway.
You can take all of the structures and methods and apply them to any area of your curriculum. By unpacking how the tests are constructed we can integrate them into our curriculum and not do the test prep, but the real work. Literacy and problem solving have to been integrated across all subjects with emphasis on skills pertinent to the subject.
I so agree with you. Our math and ELA curriculum are way above a fifth grade level. We teach them things I didn't learn until middle school or high school. The students are bored with the ELA curriculum because it's too advanced for them (that and it's not a video game). I really try to bring it back to their level or at least grade them using a rubric more appropriate for them. It's exciting to see a few excel, but most of them are not able to accomplish what our ELA program expects. Incidentally, it's a new ELA program for our district and based on a program out of New York. After reading the lessons, I'm pretty sure the district where it was developed only had about 15-18 students per class. I am trying to reach 26 with a wide variety of abilities. It's frustrating to say the least!
Mar 29, 2017
I prepare my students for standardised tests because they need to get used to it and because I have to but I tell my students that no single test on a certain day is going to define them for better or worse. It's the attitude and effort they put in all day every day that speaks volumes and that will make a difference much more than any test would.
That being said I do teach students strategies on how to make sense of complicated questions e.g highlighting the words of importance, if they don't know the answer they should have an idea of what the answer is definitely not etc. , only so that they don't feel so overwhelmed when they take the test.
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