Friday, September 7, 2012

Thoughts From Coffeechug: Too Much Testing

I have been reading, studying, and crafting many new ideas when it comes to education. I have a ton of massive projects that I am working on as we speak due to all my excitement with new things I am learning and trying to study up on in my free time. Since school has started my passion for engaging students and trying to create an atmosphere where they are truly "learning" has consumed my soul and time. I don't want to just move through standards to check them off. I want my students to pause, think, and improve their passions for learning. More importantly I want them to develop that mindset of pushing themselves on their own to create something beautiful and powerful.

I don't know if I am there yet, but along the way I feel like the world of education from both the perspective of a teacher and father has started to throw some chinks in my armor. My excitement is my suit. I love the challenge of creating something new and fresh.

This week has opened my eyes to some very real things. These items have made me rethink things schools are doing.

Testing - We live in a culture saturated in tests. As teachers we are forced to test. These tests are both tests we give in our classroom as well as required tests from district, state, and national levels. We spend a mass amount of time testing. This is not the answer. This hit home when my 2nd grade son came home the other night. He was on his second day of testing for MAP. It was the language test. I asked how it went and he did his typical boy shrug and mumbled, "I dunno know" I kept pressing as the annoying parent does and finally found out that he felt bad about it. He said he did not do good. I asked how he knew that and his answer really bothered me "I could not read the question to know what it was asking so I just picked answers."


My son is not an advanced reader, but he is not terrible. He is just a normal kid with normal abilities. This response really gave me pause. How is this test measuring his language skills when he was not even aware of  what was being asked? I understand if it was reading to measure his reading level, but that is another test that I believe he is taking today. My son already has a poor image of himself when it comes to reading and this test did nothing more than drive his confidence even lower and for what? What are schools really using all this data for? What are we honestly doing testing 2nd graders in this manner? Data, Data, Data, and for what? There is a time and place for testing don't get me wrong, but I feel like we are overboard. I have a deflated son and it is just not a great start to the year for him mentally. I often wonder if we truly measure the positives vs. the negatives of all this testing with students. Why not focus on the journey of learning. I know he is learning. He loves his teacher. He loves science and can go into detail about every minute of the science lesson. Great things are happening. Does this test prove his language skills or is it useless since he could not read it in the first place? This is just not an issue with his school. This is a national issue as kids all over the nation are being drilled with tests so ensure we are leaving no child behind and showing growth. This is not to pick my school apart. This is to show a real issued as we push and push to align to a national curriculum that we know from other countries will never work, but spend a ton of money.

My last thing is this. When kids enter middle school they are tested out. They just don't care anymore. With testing moving lower and lower in grade levels at what point do we just chill out? As a teacher I can prove what my kids can and can't do. I don't need an assessment tool everyday or week. The work I do is productive work and continuous process that leads to an end product. The journey shows the learning. I don't need fill in the blank, multiple choice, true/false when I have something tangible to demonstrate what they can and cannot do. Which is more valuable - filling in bubbles that Google could give me every answer or to create something that demonstrates skills and thinking? I can show you right now the first piece of writing of my students from last Monday and the finished piece a week later and this will show you the learning taking place.

2. I had another thought, but every time I wrote the ideas down they just scattered into chaos of my brain. I will come back to it soon.

I will come back to this issue again. I need to read some more and dig some research and watch my son through this journey. I am not alone with these thoughts, but I worry that nothing will change. Until next time...........................

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