Posts Tagged 'testing'

T.E.S.T.ing Week

standardized testing funnyAs an educator, the Spring semester can become difficult and instructional time becomes precious and limited. My ELL students have to take the district, state, and national tests, along with language acquisition tests. These required tests seem to dictate our schedules and energies during the spring semester. I find myself planning quick, self-standing lessons that can be implemented at any time because only the Lord Himself knows how much time I’ll ACTUALLY have.

Testing is part of our educational system – like it or not. So here’s what I tell my kids about standardized testing. I hope it helps you and our students gain some perspective and maybe find hope in the midst of the craziness.

Taking a test isn’t the goal here. It really isn’t. Yes the scores matter. Yes I will hear about it if my students don’t do well – but I’m not here to make sure they do well on the test. I’m here to help them learn the skills it takes to prioritize information, manage their anxiety and apply what they know. Each of those skills will help them in life and that’s what matters.

Every job requires you to pass a test. It’s not fun to admit – but it’s true. If I want to work on your car, replace your roof, or repair your broken limb – I have to pass a test. It might not be a multiple-choice test, but I will be trained and I will have to show someone else that I can apply my skills in a manner that is not only acceptable, but perhaps exceptional.

Scores don’t define you. I tell my students they are more than a number – they should never let scores define or limit them. Now, at the exact same time, I work to help them use numbers to evaluate their growth. Have you ever watched a student chart their progress and smile at the upward movement? It’s awesome! Some students consistently score high and if that score drops they begin to panic. This is where the emphasis and importance of grades and scores (see ABCs of Grades post) should be put into perspective . Kids need to have permission to be kids and to be unique in their learning and their performance. Tests don’t provide those opportunities, but we can remind students that there’s more to life than the test and the score it produces.

Talk to me. Typically I run a controlled, fast-paced classroom and my students know I have an agenda that takes priority over their social needs. However, during testing week things begin to relax a bit. I ask my students to talk to me. I ask about life outside of school. I want to know if anything is happening in their social or emotional world that might be weighing them down. I feed them, I let them go the bathroom…I am compassionate to their plight. My students with high anxiety levels let me know when they need a break and I trust them. I’ve never had a student try to “get out” of taking the test – they know this is happening – but I think they truly appreciate the understanding from the adults in their lives.

I’ll end with this well-known political cartoon:

testing cartoon

Many people use this illustration to undermine standardized testing and yes – it has a good point – but let’s be careful in our assumptions. Our students are failing. It kills me to even type that sentence – but it’s true (PEW Research).

Are the national/state/district tests truly representative of student ability? No.

Are they truly reflective of a teacher’s instructional abilities or classroom management? No.

But each time I’m tempted to complain, I ask myself what I have a BETTER way to assess ability throughout the country and I can’t think of anything.

So until I’m in a position to change things for the better I’ve decided to focus on making my classroom better and helping my students compete on the national stage.

No matter what test life might throw at my kids I want them to know how to use their gut, their knowledge, and their reasoning skills to make the best choice they can and pass that test.

I will ensure my students know their value. From there I hope they will become thirsty for knowledge because they feel confident in their abilities. For many of my students they don’t see education as valuable (see Welcome to America post) – I want to change that. I want them to revel so much in the learning process that they resist the temptation to reel against the testing.

Systems aren’t perfect – they are flawed and sometimes broken. The children in my classroom are broken and flawed and so am I. So before I shake my finger at the system, I’m going to take a hard look at my students and at myself to make sure we are growing and becoming better each day. That way we can face the test as a unified front, and when the test is done we just keep moving forward.

T.E.S.T.

Yep – it’s a four-letter word.

How we interpret this word is what matters and our kids need us to guide them along the way.

Happy testing!

Kasey

 


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