Monday, May 16, 2011

Our testing culture is like...

...manipulating symptoms to diagnose a disease and then blaming the doctor for the disease.

Here is a rant (meaning I don't expect anyone to read it) that just goes on and on:

I think our testing culture is ruining education. Education should be child-centered, especially childhood education, and not test-driven. I think we give our state mandated tests too early, too often, and that we depend on them too much.

Is the goal of these yearly tests really to improve education? No, the purpose is to judge teachers and punish schools. Since the tests are not able to improve education, and can actually harm it, think of all the time spent learning test taking skills, why do we support the tests? Do educators create these tests? No, the people who create the tests are making six figures while the teachers who are judged by those tests are not. Testing has become a multi-million dollar industry while our small schools are being closed and teachers are being "contract not renewed." Are public schools just about supporting the testing industry? The politicians who push these tests and the people who make the money from these tests, usually didn't attend public school and do not send their own children to the same schools where these tests are administered. I think the community should protest these tests.

I don't know if this is true for Texas, but in some states, tests are given three times a year - a practice for the practice test - and sometimes the tests take six hours to complete. Could the test be measuring a child's attention span? I think in Texas we just have the one mid-year practice TAKS. That's a lot of time spent not learning. Whose education is it? I think students should protest.

I understand the need for tests, like the PSAT for scholarships or the SAT or ACT for college admission, or subject SATs for credit, but for tests like the TAKS to actually control and shape our educational system - insane. The test is driving the curriculum and publishing companies. Our dependance on these tests are making the very thing we focus on, obsolete.

Tests are not an accurate measure of what a child knows. It's a measure of how well the child takes tests - a measure of test taking skills which can be taught - and a measure of attention span. Is the purpose of schooling to prepare students for tests? Is that the goal of public education? To produce good test takers?

There are all kinds of factors that affect a child's performance on a test, knowledge of basic skills is a factor, but not the only one. Sleep, anxiety, culture, and nutrition - attention span - can affect a child's score and then a teacher is judged or a school is judged by those factors? Factors that are out of a teacher's control.

Used correctly, tests could help a teacher determine a student's strengths, and could give an educator a hint as to how to tweak teaching methods to help the child. But, these tests are not to help students, they are to compare, track, punish, and pit schools against schools and even countries against countries.

I think we give the state mandated test too early. We teach kids more and more earlier and earlier hoping that they will be ready for the test by third grade. The test is driving our scope and sequence. Late readers cause alarm instead of being allowed more time to mature, physiologically, which is not an indicator of intelligence or knowledge. We want the physiological development to speed up for these tests. Not all children develop at the same rate.

I'm for a test maybe right before Junior High, maybe before high school, and before college. But testing all year long every year as if the goal of schooling is really testing - is insane!

But, I'm sure, as usual, I am the one who is really insane. I don't think that things should be done just because "that's the way it is done."

I would provide links and edit this, but I have so much more on my plate today. I think we are leaving for College Station tomorrow and we might watch a baseball game while there...

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