Tests are here to stay whether we like it or not. As I read various blogs, I am finding more and more teachers who are frustrated over tests and their implications. I am seeing many of my former student teachers leave the teaching profession after only two or three years because of days structured around testing.
High stakes tests have become the “Big Brother” of education, always there watching, waiting, and demanding our time. As preparing for tests, taking pre-tests, reliably filling in bubbles, and then taking the actual assessments skulk into our classroom, something else of value is replaced since there are only so many hours in a day. In my opinion, tests are replacing high quality teaching and much needed programs such as music and art. I have mulled this over for the last few months, and the result is a list of pros and cons regarding tests.
- They help teachers understand what students have learned and what they need to learn.
- They give teachers information to use in planning instruction.
- Tests help schools evaluate the effectiveness of their programs.
- They help districts see how their students perform in relation to other students who take the same test.
- The results help administrators and teachers make decisions regarding the curriculum.
- Tests help parents/guardians monitor and understand their child's progress.
- They can help in diagnosing a student's strengths and weaknesses.
- They keep the testing companies in business and the test writers extremely busy.
- Tests give armchair educators and politicians fodder for making laws on something they know little about.
- They sort and label very young students, and those labels are nearly impossible to change.
- Some tests are biased which, of course, skew the data.
- They are used to assess teachers in inappropriate ways. (high scores = pay incentives?)
- They are used to rank schools and communities. (Those rankings help real estate agents, but it is unclear how they assist teachers or students.)
- They may be regarded as high stakes for teachers and schools, but many parents and students are indifferent or apathetic.
- They dictate or drive the curriculum without regard to the individual children we teach.
- Often, raising the test scores becomes the single most important indicator of overall school improvement.
- Due to the changing landscape of the testing environment, money needed for teachers and the classroom often goes to purchasing updated testing materials.
- Under Federal direction, national testing standards usurp the authority of the state and local school boards.
- Often they are not aligned with the curriculum a district is using; so, curriculum is often changed or narrowed to match the tests.
Questions That Need to Be Asked
- What is the purpose of the test?
- How will the results be communicated and used by the district?
- Is the test a reflection of the curriculum that is taught?
- Will the results help teachers be better teachers and give students ways to be better learners?
- Does it measure both a student's understanding of concepts as well as the process of getting the answer?
- Is it principally made up of multiple choice questions or does it does it contain any performance based assessment?