I’m not a fan of standardized testing, especially not the barrage of tests we throw at kids these days.
Tests that take time away from real learning.
Tests that may or may not cover what has been taught in class.
Tests that teachers are not allowed to look at.
Tests that students are often told not to share anything about.
Tests scored by non-educators earning $10 an hour.
Tests whose results come months later with a score and no feedback.
As a parent, I don’t need those test scores to tell me how my kids are doing. You see, I talk to my them about what they are learning. I look at the feedback on their assignments. I read the comments on their report cards, and I count on the teachers to share relevant information with me during conferences.
S is an 8th grader, and when she recently brought home her WKCE scores (the test was taken the end of October!), I glanced at the sheet and tossed it in a pile of papers to recycle. That test told me nothing about what she has accomplished this year. I know she is learning when she tells me that she missed two questions on her Algebra test but that now she understands what she did wrong on those two problems. I know how she is writing because she is excited about it and shares her work with me. I know how she is reading because I am constantly getting texts to bring her books home from my school library.
So, why didn’t I opt my kids out this year?
Honestly, I thought about it, but curiosity got the best of me.
You see, my kids are good test takers. They know how to play the game. They don’t get anxious about the tests because I have always told them not to worry. The tests are not true indicators of what they know.
I figured this was the first year of the new test (Wisconsin’s version of the Smarter Balanced Assessment). The state had issues with getting the testing off the ground as there were multiple glitches in the online testing system.
I was curious to hear what the kids thought about the test.
S tested first. She didn’t have much to say, other than that the wording on the math test was really confusing. Once she figured out what they wanted, she could do the problems, but she felt the directions were worded to trip them up. She also commented that several things were not things she had been taught.
Keep in mind, this is a kid who has always been in advanced classes. She has had the equivalent of high school algebra as her math curriculum the last two years, yet questions on the test were things she had not been taught!
C tested this week, and in true C form, he nailed my concerns with the testing.
When I asked how testing was going, he told me the math was ridiculous. “Mom, they had us solve equations that I will never solve in real life. I mean, they had like ten steps! I could do it, but if I had to for real, I would’ve used a calculator!”
Then he said, “And there were some problems on there that I know from advanced math (He’s a math kid. He’s always loved numbers, and he loves participating in math club.), but not things we’ve been taught in our regular math class.”
Then he paused and added, “I knew how to do them, but, mom, I don’t know how my friends who aren’t in math club could be expected to know that.”
Another pause, “I know some of them were upset because they didn’t know how to do some of the problems, and I felt bad for them. It doesn’t seem fair to test us on things we aren’t taught.”
Yeah, those are the words of my 5th grader.
More worried about how these tests make his friends feel than anything else.
And now we wait for results that won’t come for months.
Results that will not arrive in time to inform instruction.
Results that will come with a score of what was right vs. what was wrong.
Results that are lacking in any meaningful feedback.
Results that will be used to sort and rank students.
Results that will be used to judge teachers and schools.
Results that will have no real connection to what my kids have learned this year.
I have no problem with assessment or accountability, but I know a standardized test does not provide either.
I trust my kids’ teachers to use classroom assessments that are relevant. Assessments that inform instruction. Assessments based on real learning.
So, what will I do next year?
I will join the ranks of parents across the country choosing to opt their kids out of the testing madness.
My kids are more than a number.