Thursday, May 31, 2012

Testing conundrums, mysteries, riddles, and enigmas

Recently there has been a lot talk about the dangers of standardized testing. The arguments against standardized testing range from the pressure it puts on students to the narrowing of the curriculum to the time spent in test prep instead of real teaching. I would not disagree that there is a mania around testing that can at times be damaging to the educational enterprise. I would not disagree that those of us in schools can create an anxious environment around the whole testing issue. As a Superintendent I get anxious right before the state test results are released.

Yet my concern is how do we hold ourselves accountable?

Students come to our schools to learn. We must be able to demonstrate that students are learning. We do that by assessing students.

Some might argue internal, end-of-course, teacher made tests are good enough. I disagree.

I want some external validation and verification that what I say students know they know. That requires some sort of standardized assessment that I can give across classrooms, across buildings, across the district.

Of course, schools should not become test prep factories.

Of course, schools should not focus exclusively on external measures.

Of course, schools should have a well rounded assessment system that provides a variety of measures of student achievement.  That would include teacher made, classroom specific assessments. But it would also include some external standardized assessment as well.

Standardized tests must be a part of any well organized, comprehensive, authentic assessment system.

Without some external measure I do not believe that we can truthfully say that students know what we say they know.

The conundrum is how do we create an assessment system that has a variety of measurements that collectively give us a picture of how each student is performing?

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