There has been a lot in the news lately critiquing the value of standardized testing. Testing students should serve the purpose of evaluating and improving curriculum as well as learning the practical aspect of taking a test. However, teachers do not get the precise feedback they need to improve the ways they spend classroom time.
Often, just the opposite occurs and the test leads the curriculum. Large amounts of time are spent on teaching the test, which negates what a test was designed to do, which is to measure what children have learned through their observations in an experiential, authentic curriculum.
It is not appropriate to promote or retain due to the results of standar
dized testing. However, the stakes are very high with regards to test results in the public schools. Children are advanced or retained because of the results. It makes the importance of a year's worth of learning meaningless when compared to a brief timed performance, in large part on knowledge-based multiple-choice questions.
Even though a variety of subjects are covered, success all boils down to how well a child reads. Except for the computation and estimation sections of the math portion, everything is led by reading comprehension.
Competency in science and social studies as well as word problems all unfold with one's ability to comprehend what he or she has read. Little, if any, higher-level thinking skills are required. The full picture of what students know or what ability an individual student has or hasn't mastered in his or her years of schooling is not revealed.
An advantage of testing can be the importance of learning the practical aspect of taking a test. Because testing is a part of our society, it is a valuable skill for our students to know how to approach a test without fear and stress.
Testing students should serve the purpose of evaluating and improving curriculum. Despite the fact that the test-scoring process does not allow the precise feedback necessary for evaluating the curriculum, it does provide an understanding of different skill formats.
For example, in some standardized tests, the spelling section may give the students a choice of one correctly spelled word mixed with those incorrectly spelled. This is an editing skill. It is important for students to learn this skill in life and vital in order to be successful with this test section.
Being successful with the multiple-choice format is also an important skill such as how to eliminate and narrow down a correct answer. Standardized testing provides information by way of scoring large groups providing percentiles and norms.
Standardized tests are only one form of evaluating our students and can be useful only if we remember that teaching, learning and evaluating do not become authentic if schools teach the test or model a curriculum around the questions. Ask any teacher.
For a link to the Gainesville Sun article, click