Reflections on Testing

standardized_test_sheet_and_pencilBy Katie Doyle — Standardized testing is a popular topic in the education world.

The pros, the cons, the confusion… there is a lot of discussion regarding whether or not standardized testing is beneficial to our school system.  My students just finished a 2-week round of state testing that allowed ample time for reflection on the topic.

The weeks (even months) leading up to the state test were tense.  Teachers had countdowns of days until the test.  They used sample questions in their classrooms.  The multiple-choice format of the test became the foundation of the classroom.  When whether your students choose the correct response dictates funding, resources, and in some cases jobs, it creates a high stress situation in the school.

We all agree that teachers should not “teach to the test.”  But when there is so much emphasis on the standardized test, teachers are under pressure to do so.  They spend weeks preparing for the test – using model questions, practicing test-taking strategies, and reviewing the most commonly tested standards.

This emphasis on testing is not just stressful on teachers.  The students feel it, too. Many of my students were under the impression that their scores on the test affected their grades in school.  They were shocked when I told them that scores are not usually received until July or August, so there was no way it could lower their grade in class.

Post-testing, students are burned out.  They are mentally drained and struggle to focus during these last weeks of school.  They know that the big test we’ve been talking about is over, so they don’t see the point in the last four weeks of school.  They don’t care if they finally get to learn about science and social studies because, at this point, they are over school.  Their minds are already in summer-mode, and the school staff is now spending the most energy on having students simply follow classroom expectations.

Can we blame the students for this kind of behavior?  When the whole school year has been a big discussion about the state test, it’s not surprising that finishing the test signals to students that school is over.  We need to readjust how we think about standardized test and how we explain them to students.  Testing should not be the end all-be all of schooling, so why do we treat it like it is?  We need a better solution to measure student achievement and keep school engaging.

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