To Test, or Not To Test, That is the Question

My sixteen-year-old daughter wrote the following passage after watching Waiting for Superman for a follow-up assignment in her English AP Class.

Whether or not it is known to many, an education is irrefutably the most important factor that one may hold in order to propel them into a successful future. The world as we know it today possesses the technology and advancements that we live with daily because people had the tenacity to give rise to these innovations. The Xbox and iPhone did not just fall out of the sky into your nearest Best Buy retailer. It took years of research, discovery and intensive labor to even come up with such inventions and it most certainly did not take one person to get there. Our evolution as human beings has been accompanied by the ongoing stream of knowledge that continues to extend from generation to generation. However, we as a nation have seemed to hit an educational drought in some respects. Statistics are showing that nearly all categories of learning are slipping behind nations such as Japan, China, and Finland (D. Guggenheim). If our rate of education continues to decline, our position as the dominant world player will soon be given up to one of these competing countries. Furthermore, if we fail to educate our new generations properly, who will be qualified to take up the jobs in the future requiring exceptional knowledge that could potentially have the ability to guide us back on track? Hopefully, this nation will not have to answer this the hard way and rather, create a solution before it is faced with the question. With this said, it appears clear that several problems must be brought to attention. Two of these major problems come directly from the way children are being presented and taught the material and in many cases more importantly, who the teachers are, that are given the responsibility to generate the experience. - Tess 2-2012

 

Interestingly enough, the next day I found myself attending an afternoon session called Test Prep Presentation presented by teachers affiliated with The Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University. It was a tutorial on “Teaching to the Test,” by introducing a plethora of strategies to get the kids "ready." We saw a video where the teacher tells the class that they are now going to start their test prep by learning a new strategy that test takers use: Mini-lesson on coming up with answers before we look at choices.
Am I the only one who is bothered by this? This is not helping our youth in any way. It is not preparing our children for real life. It is not fostering creativity, not is it enjoyable for the teacher or the student. More importantly, this type of prep and testing is not an accurate assessment of a child’s abilities. Education Week just published Rethinking Testing in the Age of the iPad. Around the country, mobile devices are being used for formative assessments rather than high-stakes standardized tests.  
Standardized testing is archaic and emotionally draining. My first experience with special education student's in fourth grade taking the "test" is forever memorable. We were put in a separate location, the nurse's office, and after agonizing over the first passage one student started crying and said, "I thought I could read!" Try explaining to a fourth grader, "you can read - just not on a fourth-grade level."
So, where do we start? Who speaks up first? How do we get administration and parents involved? How do we get the test publisher to stop pushing their product? How do we align our mission with that of Waiting For Superman and strive to fix this broken system? How? We all need to start trying now! If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you can start right here.
Write a comment now or come back later, and let TWA know where you stand on this issue.
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