Friday, March 8, 2013

Not a Hater

One might get the impression that I find no place for standardized tests in our schools... I encourage people to speak up against them. I praise those who boycott them. I too will probably not allow my children to go to school on test days... but I don't hate them. I hate how they are being perversely used. Standards Based Assesments, SBAs as they are often called, do have a legitimate purpose - to use as a dip stick for a very vague baseline. They are great for a teacher who is having concerns for a child in a general area refer to them from the past year, they are helpful for a teacher to see his or her own trends. They are important for understanding developmental norms. I was even one of those sick in the head kids that liked taking standardized test because I liked following the logic of test taking.

Here's the thing though...

When teachers are asked to pour over a students test scores and know there students by a number before they ever lay eyes on their curious or skeptical faces, I see a problem.

When teachers in low-income schools, where every child qualifies for free lunch, pay is based on the results of the same test as the teacher whose students are primarily professors' kids, I see a problem.

When teachers are so stressed out about making the right number they don't teach social studies or science until after testing in spring (here in Alaska), I see a problem.

When teacher's take positions in Title 1 (low-income) schools to get their foot in the door and then transfer to schools in more affluent neighborhoods where test scores are higher and the stress lower. Leaving kids/families who need consistency with a revolving door of rookie teachers and but a few dedicated veterans, I see a problem.

When truly gifted students should be placed in a gifted school are held on to because they elevate a school's scores, I see a problem.

When kids are withheld services or IEPs because the SPED department is the category "bringing the school" down from making AYP.

When a 6th grade teacher is held accountable for a student's score who has been in at least three other school's before hers, I see a problem.

When school districts become reactive instead of proactive and mandate, mandate, mandate to put band-aids on things, I see a problem.

When good schools aren't making AYP because they already have great test score and have no where to go but 100% and have to waste money on PR to explain that fact, I see a problem.

When teachers with masters degrees are looked over like "Big Brother" to make sure they have the right posters in their rooms for the reading program they must teach with "fidelity" - read a script, instead of given the autonomy to really tailor their lessons to their classroom.

Tests are not inherently bad, but when their data is mined for purposes other than to get a simple dip stick reading... we have a major problem.