Teaching Opinion

What Every Student Needs is More Testing...

By Starr Sackstein — October 18, 2016 2 min read
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... Said no educator in his/her right mind, ever.

Yet, we spend the vast majority of our time as teachers in this data-driven and accountability age testing students like our own lives depend on it (and unfortunately in some cases, our jobs do... but that’s a topic for another article).

Unfortunately, in my experience, the state mandated tests or standardized tests are not made bias free and therefore the data collected from them is skewed against the kids which just makes the time spent testing using these exams a colossal waste.

Why should my students who are functioning well below grade level suffer the humiliation of taking an exam that will only confirm their short-comings rather than spend that precious time actually supporting them in a way that will help them find success?

Too often schools are hand-cuffed into aggressive testing schedules despite what we all know to be best for students, but we simply don't or can't rebel against the mandates.

As a teacher, it is exceptionally hard to stare down a room full of anxious students who are sick of sitting still and feeling stupid because we expect them to do work they aren’t ready to do and then judge them on it. What are we supposed to say to kids?

Of course, we agree that there shouldn’t be this much testing; almost everyone agrees on this except for maybe the companies making the tests who are profiting from our students’ stress but what can we do about it?

Living my life in a solutions-based model, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t told kids that the tests are bad. The truth is these tests don’t accurately assess our kids, the lowest functioning ones especially, so we need to remind our students that no test cannot define them.

Here’s what we can do even if we can’t do a full on sit-in and protest the test:

  • Do your best to align actual class learning with some aspect of critical thinking. Although it may not look exactly like the test, the skills are the same.
  • If you can obtain the results of the exams, with some sort of data analysis, at least then you can make the time mean something and more effective use of small group instruction may ensue.
  • Remind students that no test defines who they are or their worth and that although no one enjoys taking tests they don’t feel ready to take, they are an unfortunate part of the learning process in schools right now.
  • Encourage students to see the tests for what they are, an opportunity to share what they know and can do, but nothing more than that. There is no need to stress them.
  • Although I don’t advocate for test prepping at all, I see no problem with previewing test directions and/or a couple of problems within the week of the actual exam to give students a little more preparedness. Offering them a little practice from past exams when the test is right in view can certainly demystify it. Teaching a mini-lesson of testing tips may be helpful too.

All students have the right to feel like they have something valuable to offer the world and it’s our job to ensure that no test takes that away from them. There is more to each of us than our score on any given exam and we must keep this in perspective. Until we move away from exams completely to other, more effective and meaningful assessment like portfolios and project based learning, students will have to endure the ticking of the clock and the use of number 2 pencils.

What can we do now, to ensure students remember that they are not the sum total of many tests for better or for worse? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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