What Tests Tell

Classroom_Picture_in_June_1941We just wrapped up state testing here – Because I am a certified teacher, I had to administer make up exams and finish up with those students who needed extra time.  (In Alaska state tests are not timed.) I had to sign pages and pages of testing agreements.  Promising to observe all the rules.  I could lose my teaching certificate or possibly my job if I did not follow protocol exactly.

I had to do this for third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades. It went on for weeks.  All electronics off, no paper grading, reading, shelving books allowed.  Full attention had to be on the testing students.  From a teacher’s manual I had to read very, very specific directions.  I was not allowed to go “off script.” There were pages of prompts I could use for anticipated student questions.

I watched kids hunch over, squirm, wiggle and fidget in their chairs. I even had one cry. It was terrible.  And frustrating.  And when it was done, and the scores are in?  There will be no surprises.  Any teacher can tell you what these tests can.

AND…. Teachers can also tell you what the tests cannot.  That “Jimmy” loves rocks, breaks them apart on the playground to look at the streaks and minerals.  Or that “Suzi” builds complicated Lego structures in the back of the room. The librarian can tell you who loves snakes or wolves. Any sixth grade teacher can tell you who makes the most convincing arguments – this I know first hand.

These budding architects, geologists, biologists and lawyers are not indicated by a test.  They are fostered on the classroom floor.  On the playground.  In classroom debates, or in the quiet corner of the library.

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy I have to say, I hate that my grandson will be entering the school system in the era of mandated testing and scripted teaching.  And screens.  Too many screens.

I can only hope that he will find his way to one of those teachers who sees past all that, that have blocks and dress up areas in their classroom.  That special teacher who recognizes that you have to let them…Get…. Messy.  Fly airplanes, shoot catapults, create complicated art. Maybe even hatch chicks.  Who assess him, by reading with him, by listening to him describe how he solved a math problem.  Who knows he has to run.  Every.  Day.   Several times a day.  Who will listen to his jokes, because he is a bit of a ham.  I hope he finds that teacher who takes the time to know him.  Who might recognize, that yes, there IS a place for assessment, but puts it where it belongs.

That is my hope. And while there is pressure around mandated testing and Common Core, or the Alaska version of Common Core, whatever you want to call it, a spade’s a spade, I know there are plenty of great teachers out there, most of them in fact.  I am proud to have taught with many of them.

3 thoughts on “What Tests Tell

  1. Best practice is not relying on one test to determine a student’s growth. Nor is teaching to the test, which is what happens when so much relies on those test results! As a Canadian teacher, I am so thankful that we do not have the mandated testing to the extremes that the U.S. has. I can imagine yours and your colleagues frustration knowing the regulations you have to follow do not align with what you know as educators to be best for kids!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. It is a fine line. We know we have to assess students to design instruction, but the state testing I am referring to has no direct implication to lesson design. It gives you very little insight to the student as a learner.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. It is the day to day informative assessment; observations, conversations, writing samples, running records, products etc. that enables you to know where a child is at and where you need to move them toward. More importantly, your post so aptly described the importance of relationship and the teacher knowing and caring about the students. All children need a nurturing environment to feel safe enough to learn. State tests do not foster that.

        Liked by 1 person

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