Viewpoint: We are part of the "test score" problem

Discussion in 'General Education' started by msufan, Aug 18, 2012.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2011
    Messages:
    5,862
    Likes Received:
    737

    Aug 19, 2012

    Exactly. I can't tell you how many classrooms I've seen where students NEVER have a real book in their hands. They don't read anything except for 2-3 page practice test passages. They don't write anything except for extended responses to released test questions for practice. Creative writing is out completely because it's not tested. They don't do any hands on or real world connection activities because that isn't how the test works. I was teaching perpendicular lines last week and my students were having a really, really hard time even with all of the visual strategies (make an L, make a right angle with your arms, see if you draw a box, etc.) and I asked if there was a class set of protractors I could bring in to help. The answer? They don't want them using things that they wont' have access to on the test.

    Entire lessons throughout the year are devoted to how to answer multiple choice questions correctly (how to fill in the bubbles correctly, circle key words, eliminate the obvious wrong answer, etc.) If they're even allowed to go to music class, they do things like read passages about musicians and answer multiple choice questions about them. Forget Science and Social Studies all together, because they're not tested. We have 30 minutes a day for both SS and Science combined (not 30 minutes each). From the beginning of the year, students are grouped into "will pass" "might pass with intervention" and "won't pass no matter what." All of the intervention resources are thrown at the "cusp" kids who have a chance at passing while the kids who need challenging and the lowest kids are completely ignored. Teachers are being told not to agree to take classes that are heavy with special needs or ELL students because their class make up won't be taken into account when test scores come out.

    And for those of you that argue that's not the intention of the test and people are taking it too far- I'll argue right back that they don't have a choice. It's the law. If you don't do well your school is closed and everyone, including those administrators who are "abusing the test" loses their jobs. Personally, I'd give anything for the chance to be a teacher when teachers were allowed to just actually teach, before all of this nonsense. I'm extremely envious of the older teachers in my building who are ending their careers now and getting out while they can, while I'm practically just starting in an era where I frankly don't see a light at the end of the tunnel.
     
  2. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Messages:
    2,836
    Likes Received:
    314

    Aug 19, 2012

    I battle with this daily. My teacher prep program was geared towards urban education. I was specifically trained for a high-needs population, but the above has made me question who I will serve in the future. My partner in the aforementioned program just left his high-poverty south Chicago school for a well-regarded magnet school on the north side that is predominantly wealthy. He asked if he should feel guilty. I told him "No way!" If CPS moves towards evaluating on test scores, he will feel a lot safer.

    I have no plans to leave Chicago right now....but if I got a call from a Naperville, Schaumburg, or Winnetka...I can't promise I wouldn't go. :sorry: Oh, to just teach and know they'll pass no matter what! :woot:
     
  3. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2007
    Messages:
    5,276
    Likes Received:
    1

    Aug 19, 2012

    Oh, to just teach, period!
     
  4. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    217

    Aug 19, 2012

    I think the entire debate boils down to the accuracy and reliability of the assessments, along with how the results are interpreted. I think most reasonable people can agree on the following:

    1. Accountability is important, and while no teacher can be held 100% responsible for the academic achievement of his/her students, the teacher can at least be held partially responsible.

    2. It is possible for assessments to be created which measure general academic outcomes in core subjects, and for such assessments to be both reliable and accurate.

    The trick is, of course, how to make these two things happen. As a previous poster mentioned, how would variables such as poverty and parent involvement be taken into account? While I believe it's currently possible with all tests to interpret such tests in light of variables such as poverty and parent involvement, the problem is setting absolute cut scores, or comparing the scores of one teacher with another.

    Hypothetically, then, I believe test scores could be used for 50% of a teacher's evaluation, but those scores would need to be interpreted idiographically, including both interpretation relative to other quantitative and qualitative variables. This would necessarily NOT include precise cut scores suggesting teacher competency, or other cut and dry rules.

    Again, we come back to the problem being with the assessment/evaluation strategies, not the concept of assessment/evaluation. It's perfectly possible to be fair with using such assessments, but it isn't always done this way.

    As a result, I don't think it's most effective to argue against standardized testing, or accountability, but to argue against specific applications or policies. Arguing that we should revert to times "when teachers could just teach" advocates removal of responsibility and accountability in a way that could be meaningfully communicated with key stakeholders (e.g., parents, community members, taxpayers). It's neither realistic nor professional or ethical, and favors a focus on benefits to teachers rather than benefits to students.
     
  5. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

    Joined:
    May 27, 2009
    Messages:
    2,972
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 20, 2012

    :yeahthat: Extremely well said.
     
  6. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    1,600
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 20, 2012

    This is exactly how I feel. For two years, I taught in a low performing school and I really did love those kids. But the problem was that the whole curriculum was focused on passing the test, because I was given the low algebra classes. It was honestly just way too stressful. I think I could have stayed longer if I was just allowed to teach the standards and not have to worry about losing my job because my kids might not pass the test. Now I'm in the wealthy, suburban school, and it's really nice not to have to worry about test prep at all because I know that all my students will pass. I love this population, but I do miss the kids at my other school. I felt like I was making more of a difference there, but it was just too stressful to stay there any longer.
     
  7. a2z

    a2z Maven

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2010
    Messages:
    5,741
    Likes Received:
    1,664

    Aug 20, 2012

    Thanks for the clarification. Do not take my following post to be directed toward you.

    Everything you listed is a direct choice of the administration of the district/school or choices by teachers (some agree with this method because they don't know what else to do - not saying your or anyone in particular on a to z).

    No law says it has to be this way. That is why we have to be really careful when we try to determine the problem.
     
  8. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician Groupie

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Messages:
    1,372
    Likes Received:
    0

    Aug 20, 2012

    I remember when I was in elementary school, we only did like one day of actual test prep to get us comfortable with the format. I remember looking forward to this day because I loved filling in those bubbles, and because it was much easier than the other work we did in class! Standardized test prep should be a rare treat for the kids to enjoy (in an ideal world).
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,669
    Likes Received:
    1,105

    Aug 20, 2012

    One problem I see, from the perspective of the public, is that teachers keep pointing to things that shouldn't be done to assess them but never come up with viable alternatives: that makes it possible for some people to assert that teachers think they shouldn't be assessed at all.

    It is entirely possible that teachers should be assessed differently in different parts of the country. The onus is on teachers in different parts of the country to make that point, however.

    Another problem I see is the insistence that all standardized testing is the enemy. I think that insistence rests on a combination of misunderstanding and mispractice. There is widespread misunderstanding of the point of standardizing tests. That point is to attempt to ensure that, other things being equal, the student who knows and can do more of what the test examines will score higher than the student who knows and can do less. (Among the early roles of standardized testing was to try to open the doors of Ivy League-ranked colleges, back in the day when the reliable way to get into one was to be the son of an alumnus.). The process of standardization includes administering the test to sample populations (plural) to see whether their scores come out as expected; if there are unexpected variances, then either test items or test scoring are then subject to revision.

    The devil is in the "other things being equal": if a nationwide or even statewide test presupposes a familiarity with what it takes to shovel snow, most kids in Southern California are going to struggle, so it may be that assessments need to be tailored more narrowly to the populations that are taking them. But discarding standardized testing throws away a useful and cost-effective way to take the temperature, so to speak, of a number of schools. I think we can all agree that the school in which students' performance is either stagnant or regressing is in trouble - and I think we all have heard stories of schools in which that is the case.

    (If I ran the world, standardized tests would be used to identify schools and school populations in need of more and better resources. Then again, I don't believe that government is always the problem.)

    As to mispractice, part of the issue is indeed classrooms in which instruction takes the form of drilling for the test (or rather the tests). In some cases it is the teacher's decision to do this - but, judging from what one reads on A to Z, in many more cases the teacher simply doesn't have a choice: the school or the district or the county or the state or all of the above may require that a disproportionate and disheartening percentage of instructional time be devoted to some variant on filling on stupid little bubbles on stupid little forms. In other cases, the school may mandate additional formal assessments to ensure readiness for the additional formal assessments that the district mandates to ensure readiness for the additional formal assessments that the county mandates to ensure readiness for the additional formal assessments that the state mandates to ensure readiness for the yearly test that NCLB mandates. Oooof!

    The larger issue here, of course, is the idiocy of using the yearly assessments not to identify where more help is needed but to punish. That's incredibly frustrating - but it's unlikely to stop until teachers, nationally and locally, present and defend better alternatives.
     
  10. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    217

    Aug 20, 2012

    Well put.
     
  11. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2004
    Messages:
    3,668
    Likes Received:
    231

    Aug 20, 2012

    From what I have heard from our admin, standardized testing is in no way cost-effective.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. MissCeliaB,
  2. miss-m,
  3. Pi-R-Squared
Total: 365 (members: 3, guests: 340, robots: 22)
test