My little fourth graders are doing their state assessment this week. I don’t want to get into too much detail about it, but needless to say I have some strong opinions about what they’re being asked to do. Long story short, the munchkins are working hard and I’m proud of them. Enough said.
So, this week of standardized testing made me flashback to some of my own testing experiences over the years, stretching all the way back to the second grade. That one was a doozy. We were doing some inane multiple choice fill in the bubble test and it was a BIG DEAL. Such a big deal that our desks were scattered all over the room, I guess to prevent us from cheating. Anyway, I finished early (which would become a pattern) and was sitting quietly waiting for the time to be called. I happened to have a tissue, and I folded it neatly into the shape of an envelope on my desk. I was feeling pretty clever. Alas, the student teacher (I will never forget her name, she scarred me) swooped down and grabbed my precious tissue envelope and threw it away, giving me a mean look. What? Did I skew the results of the test with that tissue? Wow.
My next big test memory occurred in my freshman year of high school. In those days the freshmen were still in junior high, and we had to sit for some end of the year state test. We were all housed together in this weird room behind the stage. It was the first and last time I ever sat foot in that room. To this day I have no idea what it was used for other than that test.
Flash forward to the SAT. I don’t remember it. I took it. Twice. I did well. Twice. I THINK I took it at my high school, but I don’t recall. I feel like I should remember that.
Flash forward again, this time to the National Teacher’s Exam. I finished early, of course, then spent the rest of the time trying not to look like a cheater. I was out of my mind with boredom, and I desperately needed a tissue (another testing theme, I guess). I tried to discreetly sniffle so I wouldn’t end up with snot running down my face. It was truly gross. I couldn’t wait to get out of there! I kicked ass on that test. And no, I didn’t cheat.
Then there was the test for educators in my adopted state. I needed it for my teaching certificate. It was a two-part exam consisting of general knowledge and professional knowledge. Tons of teachers and would-be teachers showed up for the test at a local high school. There was a lot of waiting around and some friendly chatting as the organizers prepared. Finally, we were all herded into classrooms and read the directions. On this particular exam, you were allowed to leave when you were done with the section. One was given in the morning and the other was given in the afternoon. I did my first section, looked over my work, and turned it in. Early. Because that’s how I test.
I went home and had a nice lunch, and returned for the afternoon test, thinking nothing of it. As I took my seat, a girl near me said, “I’m surprised to see that you came back. You left so early, we all thought you quit the test.” Huh? People were talking about me? How weird. Oh, and I kicked ass on that one too.
Not everyone tests the way I do. Not everyone feels comfortable in a testing environment. In fact, it’s been my experience that most people prefer NOT to take tests, but there they are. As time passes I see more and more testing, and it concerns me. If we’re constantly testing, when do we actually teach? I understand the need for assessment, but I also understand that little kids vary greatly not only in their abilities, but in their stamina, motivation, and skill at test-taking. In a perfect world there would be less testing in elementary school and more time to learn and develop other skills and talents.
April 9, 2015 at 4:38 am
Good morning. Life is full of tests, and yes, it would be good if we changed how we test grade school kids, in particular. I just read this essay you might find interesting:
April 9, 2015 at 6:02 am
Thank you for the link to a beautiful and well written piece. I agree, life is full of failures, and we should accept that truth. Still, I also believe that we should give our children as many opportunities to be successful as we can, rather than set them up for failure. Sadly, I believe that some of these assessments are designed to do just that, to what end I’m not sure, other than to make money for testing companies and to give yet another “benchmark” on which to assess teacher effectiveness. Thank you for the link and the comment.
April 9, 2015 at 6:18 am
The kids’ most effective “tests” would be to learn to accurately assess their own progress, and learn self-motivation to do better where needed. But I don’t think there’s time to teach that easily… 😉