Friday, January 25, 2013

Stop bashing tests and talk honestly about student achievement

Many people criticize standardized testing.

Just this week the Washington Post ran a story about the revolt in Texas over funding standardized testing.

The Seattle Times ran an editorial about teachers who boycotted giving a standardized test.

I would think that we would have come to agreement on whether standardized tests should be part of the school culture by now. After all, we have been giving standardized tests for a long time.

Yet the conversation keeps going. Kind of like Bill Murray's movie "Groundhog Day" - the same thing over and over again.

I believe that it is important for us - the school community - to be able to identify clearly for a student and a parent the skills of that student. Students come to school to learn. We should be able to identify what a student has learned by being in our school. If we can't do that - if we can't say with confidence that our teachers and our school has helped in these ways - then why should a community support the schools.

I understand that there is a lot more to educating a child than just what goes on in school. Poverty, parental expectations, opportunities to learn, experiences outside of school, student desire - the reasons for the differences in student performance is long and complicated.

But we should be able to identify for ourselves and for our students and parents what students learn when they are in our schools.

Should we rely only on a standardized test to do that? Of course not.

Should we rely only on the grades that a student earns to do that? Of course not.

Should we rely only on the in class teacher assessments to do that? Of course not.

We need to have multiple measures that communicate a complete picture of the strengths and weaknesses of a student. Each different measure gives us a perspective. We need to take each of the perspectives and mold a complete picture of student performance.

We owe it to ourselves and to our students to find a way to use the multiple and varied tools that we have to help students know their strengths and weaknesses.

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