Virginia Harper

This conversation is closed.

Are we bombarding our students with too many standardized tests in school?

The DOE plans to add 9 tests to the school year in most states who are already testing their students from elementary to high school with State Standradized tests tied to enbdless benchmarks, standards, and rules. Is it time to step back and really look at who is in our classrooms? Is testing teaching? Are we spinning our wheels and turning out students who can't answer deeply about any subject much lerss read and analyze data?

  • thumb
    Apr 14 2011: You can't fatten a pig by weighing it.
  • thumb
    Apr 14 2011: I think we're arguing the same point here. Too much focus on the system - it's never worked but it's fitted reasonably neatly in the past.

    We need to be less obsessed with measuring, full stop. It was never really for the learner's benefit anyway, just makes the ministry's number juggling a bit more manageable.

    I agree that the standard you mentioned sounds ridiculous. But I expect nothing less from bureaucrats. Nothing is forcing the kids to take that credit (or is there?) in which case, we might hope that all the rhetoric about "ownership" will have rubbed off enough that the student feels empowered to choose the more taxing and ultimately more rewarding (substantial?) credit.

    When I say content, I mean from a curriculum point of view rather than specific teacher knowledge and experience.

    Individual teacher passion and enthusiasm for a subject/topic is the only thing that counts. If you can get a student excited about anything and they can get some kind of momentum going that will sustain them until they are free of school then the job is done regardless of their test scores or credits.

    I've not seen any government that exercises any kind of thought beyond a columns and rows approach to education. We are restricted by models, not guided by them.

    I continue to have faith in the individuals involved in education and continue to expect disappointment and predictability from the ministry.
  • thumb
    Apr 14 2011: You do not learn from testing period. You learn from being wrong not being afraid of being wrong.
  • thumb
    Apr 13 2011: The problem with standardized testing is that we've been teaching students what they need to know to pass the test. Once the test is passed, it's time to begin swallowing your next spoonful of information to prepare you for the next test. The system today teaches facts for the student to regurgitate in the form of correctly placed lead-filled bubbles. These facts are all well and good, but they are highly over emphasized.

    A prime example of this is in the realm of mathematics. We tell our students to memorize this thing called a "quadratic formula," whatever that is, and tell them if they put the numbers in like this, they'll get the answer out like that. How many teachers stop to explain to their students why this formula is useful? How many of our teachers even know? (To the something like 95% of students who don't even need to take/use Calculus, at any point in their life, is learning this formula even useful?)

    I am currently enrolled in college and see firsthand the negative impact that these tests have caused. It pains me to see that my classmates aren't here to learn--they're here to pass their finals. I almost want to smack them when they ask "Do you think that'll be on the test?" I don't know, maybe it will... does it matter? I'm here to get an education, so that I can use that education to further my professional goals--I am not here to pass the final.

    Which brings me to my actual point.

    I strongly believe testing is required, for obvious reasons, but we need to radically rethink our method. Courses, on all levels of education, need to be aimed at education, not at test-taking skills. If students know and understand the material, they will be able to take the test. We need to get out of this dogmatic mindset that the point of school is to teach children facts, and realize that we should be teaching them concepts and ideas.

    To answer your question, "is testing teaching?" No. Testing is not teaching--Teaching is teaching. We should move back toward that.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Apr 13 2011: Testing depth of knowledge on the subject and the ability to analyze data is, in a nutshell, what I think we need to start moving towards. Ask questions that the student has never seen before. Find out how they approach problems, and where they get stuck. Develop their ability to reason. If a student doesn't even know where to start a problem they're never seen, how should they be expected to flourish in life? I honestly don't think questions like "Train A leaves the station at..." are applicable to real life for 99.99% of people. Applicable problems are not taught in school.

        [To avoid a hasty generalization, I will say that many schools and teachers are making great progress in fixing these problems. I should have said that many schools are not emphasizing applicable problems enough.]

        Maybe I'm slanting my ideals towards what I believe is wrong with numeracy curricula, but I believe the same concepts can be applied to the other subjects as well.
        • Apr 14 2011: > "Train A leaves the station at..." < I remember those!!

          If train A is traveling at 45 mph, and cashews are $3.27 a pound, and the wind is blowing North by Northeast; and you have 257 square feet of wall to paint;
          What color are the engineer’s socks?

          A problem with education is that ALL of the knowledge is taught as if it was academic, and so the education system can’t even tell any more what’s academic and what’s practical, what’s important and what’s not. So everything is taught as if it was important, and the students are reduced to just trying to get through the system, because most really don’t what an education, they’re just looking for what amounts to job training.

          The other thing is, facts are easier to test, and bureaucracies like things that are easy, so testing is the preferred way to quantify results.

          That is doesn’t really serve the students well is irrelevant.
  • thumb
    Apr 12 2011: If we are bombarding students--in the US at least--with too much standardized testing, it's because of a fundamental issue of control and perverse incentives.

    Much of the increase in standardized testing has come from the federal level, though much has come from states as well. First, politicians at this level, in both parties, see a need to reform education, and are interested in "accountability." If they're going to put taxpayer dollars into education, these leaders want to make sure the funds are spent most efficiently. This means evaluating performance across 100 million students, and many then take the logical leap that this must mean standardized, quantitative metrics. Moreover, "accountability" means we can't tolerate experiments that might result in failure or inefficient use of funds.

    Second, I believe this issue is compounded by the short-term focus of many politicians at the federal level. With a two-year term, they are under pressure to show instant results and terminate those efforts that aren't showing fruit.

    It's hard to expect education -- an intensely local issue -- to improve with these issues and incentives at play. However, the efforts the Obama administration has made to fund pilot programs and essentially "experiments" in education look promising.
  • thumb
    Apr 16 2011: You have to look at the bigger picture: standardized testing is meant to drive centralization of education policy decisions more completely into the hands of the national government. When that happens, a vital layer of freedom will be lost and the effectiveness of using education to inject and enforce nationalistic values and agendae will take a quantum leap forward.
  • Apr 15 2011: I just graduated high school last year, and I felt I was almost being tested more on how to take a long standardized test rather than the information...
  • thumb
    Apr 14 2011: Yes. What actual purpose does standardised testing serve? Usually it's more about admin and accountability than measuring a learner's progress. No more Standardised Assessment!!!
  • Apr 12 2011: I absolutely believe in testing as one mechanism for obtaining feedback on teaching effectiveness. I absolutely believe in having an accountable educational system. I absolutely believe testing, and ONLY testing as it’s usually done, is a DISSERVICE to our children.

    I would like to see additional methods of evaluation; ‘Portfolio review’, ‘dissertation type defenses’, things that would serve to illustrate how students have exercised and practiced their ability to think and reason through a problem or situation. Not just an inventory of what facts the child has memorized. I’d like to see students’ responses to open ended questions and to problems that don’t have necessarily correct answers.

    Of course this would mean a much more extensive and involved education evaluation system. It would mean expending a LOT more resources on the education itself. It would mean a budget for an educational system that’s more like our Defense Department budget. (And I don’t mean to imply that there isn’t a whole lot of waste in the DoD budget .)

    I think as a society, we confuse effectiveness with so called efficiency. Testing is a cost effective mechanism that provides a number. Cost effectiveness of obtaining the number often becomes more important than the purpose of what the number is being obtained for.

    Well, if you really want to save money, then just eliminate the education system entirely. And stop this pretense of doing something in the interest of children & benefit for the society, when it’s often really for the benefit of the bureaucracy.

    I think standardized testing often leads to standardized teaching. Standardized teaching, as if all students are the same size, is an oxymoron. I think education should be more like having clothes tailor made, and less like a one size fits all garment.
    • thumb
      Apr 12 2011: Nicely put.
    • thumb
      Apr 14 2011: This is just an extension of the root problem - a whole lot of discussion about the system and precious little about the learner.

      Aren't the qualifications requirement for teachers enough? Professionalism? Internal appraisal systems? Ministry visits? Formal and Informal reflection practice? Evidence pages?

      If you want to know the value of an ed-system, then ask the student for their thoughts - everything else is someone else's (irrelevant) interpretation.

      "Standardised" teaching is a result of rampant bureaucracy, tradition for the sake of it, parents not taking responsibility for their role in teaching their kids and NOT ENOUGH MONEY.

      "Experience seems to most of us to lead to conclusions, but empiricism has sworn never to draw them."
      George Santayana.
  • thumb
    Apr 12 2011: As a parent I truly dislike standardized testing. All it does is marginalize students and it is a lazy way on behalf of education systems who want to show figures as to how they are educating our young. In order to change the process it would take a lot of work and thought on behalf of education systems and I do not think they are up for it at the moment. The status-quo means they will keep their jobs and be able to show what look like results.
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Apr 12 2011: Testing is not teaching, it's testing. A residual amount of learning will be gained but in the end the most learning will be how to take and pass a test in a very limited area of knowledge.
    • thumb
      Apr 14 2011: I would blame the ministry before you blame the teachers.

      Do you question a qualified doctor for following protocols handed down by the ministry of health?

      If parents have kids at school, they could take responsibility for finding out how they are doing by going and talking to the relevant people, child included.

      Unless they find it more convenient to get a one-pager summary of test results...

      What essential topic do you think needs to be included in the national curriculum, Richard? Bear in mind that content delivery is a bit redundant in these days of wires and words.
      • thumb
        Apr 15 2011: The curriculum is subject rich and varied what the problem is, is how it is delivered. One size does not fit all, the challenge therefore would be to deliver the same topic (maths for instance) in such a varied way that everyone can access it.
  • Apr 12 2011: Yes, Ms Harper. How do we fix this?
  • thumb
    Apr 11 2011: Yes!