How do YOU feel about standardized testing? My main interest is how many parents use the test scores to determine school placement for their child (and how they achieve that placement), but feel free to talk about any aspect of standardized testing.
Oh my! One of my favorite topics............... I despise standardized testing, and I resent that so many of my co-workers have give up the biggest part of themselves- the "teacher" part, to stand silently in classrooms watching their students fill BUBBLES.
Most teacher I know actually LOVE to teach, but have learned to hate their jobs because so much of their time is consumed with "teaching the test." We are in essence raising a whole generation of children who will be great at making the "best guess," but who will also have gone through 12 years of schools never having learned everything about anything. It's all about hoping they recognize, or have just enough knowledge to make that guess. It is quite frankly disgusting.
Sorry, you may not like my opinion, but I have been around it too long, and I have seen too many wonderful teachers give up their ideals from fear. Most people don't understand that educators are more often than not "graded" by their administrators, districts, and parents on the basis of how well their students test. It's not a pretty, but it's a real one.
And, uh, don't get me going on primary students experiencing "test stress." I'm not even going there!
They are a part of education, I agree, but at the same time I think that all children are unique and they need special approach. Standardized testing is not good for ALL the children, because they are very different.
In some ways, I think standardized tests can be really useful. However, I am less of a fan of the weight of some well-known standardized tests such as the SATS or the LSATS and the admissions process. I still have two years before I officially take the LSATs, but it makes me a bit nauseous to think about what impact my score could have on my acceptance to law school which leads to where I could have potential job opportunities. My practice scores are what I want to get on my regular test, but I'm terrified it won't happen. I had a friend from an ivy league school who had to go to a 60 something rank law school because of his LSAT score. He will make a fine attorney, but his options were limited because he wasn't feeling so great the day of his test. (Yes, you can retake it, but your first score is still considered). Ugh, I don't like to think about how they can really affect people's future careers!
I find it interesting that a lot of the folks who oppose standardized testing bemoan the state of US k-12 education and compare it unfavorably to educational systems in other countries, but fail to note that many of those other countries place FAR more emphasis on standardized testing than we ever have.
I do not oppose standardized testing, I just think it should be taken into proper perspective. I had a very good public school education and in a class of 44 students 12 of us got to take the National Merit Scholarship test. One of us got the 4 year free ride. The valedictorian of our class was not one of those 12. He was my best friend and he was a student. He had trouble with French so I tutored him. We both got A's as long as I was tutoring him, but when we stopped my grades declined and his stayed at A's. This is the kind of student who succeeds. Not someone like me that everything comes easy to and who spends 10 years in college trying to figure out what I'd like to do. I just feel that other things have to be taken into account.
Standardized tests are the lazy person's guide to scholastic excellence, or lack of excellence as the case may be. The only true way to determine scholastic competence is the old fashioned way. Interview on topics and demonstration of certain skills in reading, writing, math, etc. The problem is that these sorts of things are time intensive. While you can adapt industrial techniques to many things, I'm not so sure education is one of them. People are individuals not groups that you move from place to place, hoping that they will learn by osmosis.
Standardized testing is highly biased towards one model of education and one model of measuring intelligence (or competence). But obviously there isn't much of an alternative for evaluating hundreds of thousands of students one-by-one.
Perhaps we shouldn't try industrial techniques when it comes to educating children.
It may be an unpopular thing to say, but I think standardized tests are important. I've researched educational issues for a number of years (so I know the drawbacks of, and arguments againsts, standardized tests but won't re-hash them all here).
Still, these tests show whether a student has taken in x amount of information and demonstrate that on the test. If nothing else, they show whether a student has taken in a minimal amount of information (for whatever that information is worth in terms of having learned it). Students who don't perform well have either not taken in that minimal level of information or else are students who, for one reason or another, "don't test well". Identifying why a student does not perform well on tests is important, and not performing should send up "alarm bells" for additional attention.
Another group of students' results that should set off alarm bells are those who score at, say, 98th percentile on standardized tests but get average and slightly better than average grades. These students, too, need parents and teachers looking for what is causing the underachievement.
So, for all these reasons (as well as some others), I think standardized tests are important.
There are concerns about retaining information too, one issue is how much importance should be placed on information-retention alone, and another is that students are expected to retain information in stressful and timed examinations. During stressful situations our bodies switch into a mode of survival and adaptation, not remembering dates or names from text books.
The problem is that you can teach kids to break the test. How do you really know you're testing for something true? At least with tutoring and old fashioned teaching methods you could tell if a kid understood the subject by using essay questions and getting them to talk about a subject in class.
You can't reproduce that on a multiple choice standardized test. Those tests are just "feel good" solutions to the problems you encounter when you try to fit too many kids in a school system and class sized get too big. Costs for education are out of control and our kids are learning less and less in public education. Do private schools use standardized tests?
I don't see it as an "either/or" situation. Of course, there has to be "regular" teaching, essay questions, and discussions. That goes without saying. I also think, though, that there's something to be said for at least knowing a student has memorized a good part of the information on tests. Sure, there will be multiple-choice questions on which a student (particularly one who has been kind of listening in class and/or who knows how tests work) will guess and get it right. In general, though, a student who is clever enough to get high scores on standardized tests cannot do that without having a pretty good knowledge of a good portion of the information. There's only so much guessing that can go before it's going to be reflected in the scores.
There's something to be said for that old fashioned memorization of things like dates in history. At least you don't get students who think World War II was in 1970. Most standardized tests focus on verbal and math skills. It's not all that easy for a person to consistently guess at questions involving things like proper grammar or math problems. Neither is all that easy to consistently guess at questions on reading comprehension. If you teach a student about something like reading comprehension questions, and you point how out to read a paragraph, maybe go back an double-check it, and refrain from adding or missing information in it - you've taught him how to process what he reads. Whether he always reads that way, away from the test, is a separate matter; but at least he's been introduced to the idea of not adding or missing information when he reads a simple paragraph. That's better than not introducing him to it at all.
Even with something as simple as analogies, if you teach him what the test "is looking for" you're essentially teaching him that one type of thinking used in seeing analogies. Again, he comes away with just that much more than if there were no testing.
Of course, everyone's aim is to (ideally) make sure all graduating students know and understand in depth everything in the curriculum; but the reality is a whole bunch of them don't. I think it's better to at least aim for most of them to have the information/skills tested than not even those. The student who at least memorizes the names of, say, the explorers (for example) and the time periods when major historical events took place has, at least, a minimal foundation on which he may or may not build (as a student or later).
I know the argument about how teachers don't have time to prepare students for the tests and to use other approaches, but a student who can do well on standardized tests (reading comprehension, grammar usage, math problems, etc.) has a far more useful set of "basic skills" than a student who has an in-depth understanding of nothing but the Civil War. Ideally, there should be the time and staff to do both; but if something has to go, I think it's better to let the "in-depth" stuff take the back-seat and aim to teach the skills that are reflected in good tests scores and that will give the student the rock-bottom basics to pursue later aims (either on his own for the rest of his life or else when he gets to college and gets to the time when the curriculum becomes more focused and in-depth).
When I went to a modest, public, school there was no such thing as teachers aiming their days at the tests that would be showing up months down the line. They taught the basics, and kids who learned those basics did well on the tests. Secondary school students weren't even prepared for the SAT's the way so many are now. They just went to school, took in whatever they took in, and gave it a shot at the SAT's and Achievement Tests. (There was PSAT's, but that was it.) I'd prefer all kids get an enriched and in-depth education, but that's not what happens in public schools for the most part. In lieu of that, I do think it's better to aim to make sure kids have those skills that are tested on standardized tests. It's kind of the "teach-a-man-to-fish" approach (in a way, sort of).
As a kid who was accepted at MIT based only on his standardized tests- I actually think they give an unfair advantage to those who find taking such tests easy. There are a great number of number of hard working students who are a far better suited to succeed in college, who are penalized because they are very bad at taking tests.
Another way to look at it, though, is that students for whom taking those tests is easy are usually the students who have learned the material being tested. I don't see that as "unfair advantage". At the same time, when it comes to admission to college I don't think standardized tests should be the main measure either. Test results do need to be viewed within the proper context.
Lisa, they are not a good measure of whether the student has learned the material. Read Jerilee Wei's series of hubs on how to improve your score by eliminating wrong answers. Some students use common sense to score well, but they have no idea how to calculate the right answer.
If they're using common sense (which is one of the types of intelligence) to do well on the test, I would think that, alone, says they have a certain level of intelligence. I know I used the word, "material" (which was a bad choice of word), but standardized tests generally don't test on specific material. They test on things like reading comprehension (an ability, rather than specific material). I don't if anything has changed, but many tests require students show their work on math questions. I can see how "bluffing techniques" could possibly increase a student's score some; but I find it hard to believe that the student who would have otherwise gotten 50th percentile would be able to get 95% percentile, bluffing. Even with some margin for error in scoring, I do think standardized tests are used so widely because educators do believe they are a fairly good measure of students' abilities.
I don't know to what extent people or electronics systems examine all the results for each student; but there are a number of opportunities for detecting signs of bluffing. In a whole lot of cases, the tests give a good reading; and I think it's better to have some kind of reading of at least a good number of students, than no reading on any of the students. Students with learning disabilities are usually identified before standardized testing comes around. Students with "test phobia", to the best of my knowledge, show that during regular tests in the classroom (not standardized ones). In other words, a whole lot of the exceptions are identified before standardized testing takes place. Assuming some kind of accommodations are made for the "exceptions", that would lead students, of varying levels of ability and with no particular "issue", to take the test. The majority will fall in "the fat part" of a bell curve. Those with such low abilities as to fall in the "low" end are not that likely to have the kind of ability associated with common sense to bluff their way up to the middle. The "natural high-enders" exist, but so may some small minority of "natural-high-average" students with the common sense to push themselves into the "high" range. I'd think that several within the average range can probably "common sense their way" up a few points as well. All in all, assuming this is roughly how it works, the tests would present a fairly good (not perfect) reading of abilities.
There are kids who get reasonably good grades (not great) or even average grades, but they're underachieving. One purpose standardized tests can serve is to identify kids who get - like - 98th percentile even when they're getting, say, A's and B's or B's and C's in their grades. A similar benefit can be for the kid who gets D's in school but gets, say, 90th or 80th percentile on standardized tests. Then, too, if there's a student who gets great grades but poor standardized tests results, that's another thing that should "set off alarm bells". Having standardized tests can be one way to reveal inconsistencies between test results and grades that would otherwise go undetected. Schools need every tool they have to increase their chances of detecting "issues" with students.
The concern with young kids and stress during tests is one I understand. I've never quite understood, though, the "teaching to the test" argument. Maybe I have just been misinterpreting the meaning of that phrase for ages.
My question is this: If teachers know some big, standardized, testing is coming up (and, to the best of my knowledge, these don't come up all that often each year); and if they aim to include in their teaching the material on which students will be tested, why is "teaching to the test" such a bad thing? I mean, if the purpose of x test at the end of x grade is to measure whether students have taken in x knowledge that year; then isn't "teaching to the test" teaching what, in fact, students in that grade are supposed to be learning that year?
If the argument is that teachers can't be more "creative" (for lack of a better word) and exercise a little more individuality with regard to what they teach; I'd think the debate would be more about whether school boards have a right to determine what students learn in x grade (versus letting teachers have more autonomy with regard to what they teach), rather than about the standardized tests, themselves.
To me, if I knew that the aim was for students in x grade to take in x information (which would be measured on a test); I would view my being able to teach that information to students as my being an effective teacher. To me, the student who does well on standardized tests has his teachers to thank for the fact that he has the information/skills to do that well. I've not been under the impression too many wild guesses will result in the best scores. If "teaching to the test" means "teaching tricks for passing the tests" then that's a different thing. I just don't see, though, how actually making sure students have the verbal, math, and other skills (that will be tested) as a bad thing.
The main exams we take in the UK during secondary education are set and marked nationally - the exams are sat within schools, but invigalated (sp?) and held under public exams conditions. The papers are written externally, and then marked externally, too. Is this the kind of thing you mean?
We take (here in England & Wales) GCSEs at 16, and A levels at 18. I studied 10 subjects for GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education), over 2 years, aged 14 to 16. I then studied for 3 A levels and 1 AS level (Advanced levels, and as AS is half an A level) from aged 16 to 18.
Entrance to university is based in a very large part on the marks you get at GCSE and A level.
Honestly if schools just concerned themselves with the three R's we'd be fine. It teaches kids to learn for themselves. In a way it's the best of both worlds. There's a standardized curriculum that makes for ease of teaching and once a kid has shown they have a basic set of skills that will enable them to learn themselves, you can turn them loose to find their own way.
Based on schools in Massachusetts (where I know what testing goes on), there are annual tests similar to those you describe. One kind was "Iowa Tests". Another was "California Test of Mental Maturity". I've always thought of them as similar to SAT's for younger.
When my daughter (now graduated from high school) was in middle school Massachusetts began "MCAS" tests, which (I think) are done in third, eighth, and eleventh grade. It's said that students who don't do well in the first MCAS tests are identified as needing more help. Those who don't pass in eleventh grade are at risk of not graduating high school (unless they re-take the test and pass it). (That, of course, has posed a lot of problems and requests for exceptions by Special Needs students and their parents.) To the best of my knowledge, something has been done about that particular challenge.
The idea (at least with the MCAS tests) was to make sure students weren't graduating high school without a basic amount of skills/knowledge. It was in response to the fact that some students were graduating high school without having learned what high school graduates really ought to know.
What sort of exams do people take at high schools? In how many subjects? Is it the same across the country? Is graduating with a Grade A from one school the same as Grade A from any other school?
We specialise quite young here, I think. I studied only English lit, history, and geography for A level from aged 16 to 18, and AS level politics (half an A level).
You can't really learn just reading, riting and 'rithmatic for 14 years, it would get dull.....
Ideally, the third-grade tests identify reading problems; and the high-school tests are aimed at whether people know the level of high-school math they ought to, and whether they can write an essay.
Of course not, but when I went to school, lo those many years ago, we studied most of the subjects several times over the years. That got old quick. Especially when you had bright kids mixed in with kids who needed more time to absorb the subject. I was a bright kid and got bored after the fifth or sixth time a teacher had to go over the same subject so one kid could finally get it. As you can imagine my precociousness found an outlet.
Ideally you'd teach the three R's until they showed aptitude then send them off to a school which allowed some sort of apprenticeship program. It's a well known fact that people who have mentors do much better that those who do not. It would blur the line between school and work, but that would not be an entirely bad thing.
Not sure that would work, ledefensetech. Two of my kids had high school reading levels in third grade. (Granted, they hadn't been given the chance to learn high-school level math; so they didn't have all 3 of the "r's".) Assuming some kids are as capable of learning high-school math as they are high-school reading, that would mean 7- and 8-year old kids sent to apprenticeship programs. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't have wanted my children in such a thing. In fact, I would not have wanted their high-school education interrupted in favor of something like that either. There are more elements to the secondary-school years than just academics, and they include brain maturation, social maturation, and a whole set of non-academic things some think are best learned among other kids their own age. There are even benefits to having those awful part-time jobs most high-school kids have to take. My son (like a lot of kids) graduated college at 21. To me, that's plenty young enough to start dealing with work.
Of course, odd as this may seem to some people, there are a number of reasons I'm not a big fan of mentors for kids (or at least those kids who parents who act as mentors).
I was thinking older like 13 or so. It couldn't be done earlier in most cases as kids don't seem to develop a sense for abstract thought until 10 or 12. Before that you'd probably be wasting your time. Besides the best way to get a kid to learn something is to repeat it. Malcom Gladwell made this point in his book, "The Tipping Point" when he talked about Blues' Clues vs Sesame Street. I highly recommend the book.
The best way to determine their suitability for apprenticeship would be to develop a minimum educational level needed in order to get into the program. That way the fast learning kids could proceed at their own pace and the kids who need more time to develop those skills have the time they need. Right now we use a one size fits all system, those systems never work. We are, after all, individuals.
You mentioned your kids reading at a high school level. Great, then they could focus on the areas of the three R's they were weakest in, spending as much time as they needed to get it right. Those are the important things after all. Let kids decide for themselves what they need to learn once they have the basics down.
I say that yes they are helpful to see where you student or child stands. But when it comes to other factors I don't think that they are very fair, ie learning disabilities.
The head of Sixth Form at my school (6th form is 16 to 18) said we should all get weekend jobs at the supermarket or whatever, as it would make us work harder to ensure we didn't have to work there for life.
The head of your school would have approved of me, as a high-school student. I started working at a big supermarket a month after turning 16 and stayed there until I was ready to start college. It's true - I never had such a job, ever again.
My children's professional father said he hadn't been positive he wanted to go to college as a kid; and one Summer he worked with a moving company, moving businesses. He laughs and says that was the thing that made him realize the only option was getting the degrees.
Oops. Poor choice of words. The original point was that even though he did finish college and beyond (and even though his career is a huge part of life), he had that moment in his youth when he considered not going to college. I guess I was trying to protect his privacy by using a non-specific word like, "professional", as I did.
I did life guarding and baby sitting.
OH did potato peeling (night shift) for the Henley Festival and Henley Regatta.
Standardized testing is a very poor way to evaluate students. In my thirty plus years of teaching, I have found that every student is different. Every classroom situation is different. We need to evaluate students to see how much they are learning, but evaluation should be on a one to one basis. We can give oral and written evaluations. And we can evaluate a student by his classroom performance, how much he participates in class discussion etc. To evaluate a student, you must know where he is coming from. You can only see if he or she is making progress if you look at him or her over a period of time.
Many of the educators I know say that standardized tests are a hindrance to the learning process. They are way too general to pigeon hole a child's potential, and are not indicative of all the curriculum that should be learned in each grade.
They are a hindrance to educators being unaccountable.
Unaccountable to what? My friends, the "unaccountable" teachers and principals in this instance, are concerned about what our children are not learning.
Unaccountable for measurable results. Too many teachers (and ALL teacher's unions) resent/fear being held accountable for results. They were much happier in the bad old days when a teacher would put his feet up on the desk and read the paper for an hour then send the kids on their way - resulting in HS grads who couldn't write their own names. Then there are the teachers who want to believe in any nutty teaching 'philosophy' that flatters their own ego or just happens to be the most recent fad. Can't spend all day indulging and experimenting when you are expected to actually meet some measurable goals.
Standardized tests are ONE important part of education.
Wow, we finally agree on something, with the emphasis on ONE important part of education.
We need standardized tests to measure results and to be sure teachers and students are progressing in the right direction. I personally think there are too many tests being performed and not at all pleased with the idea of the Federal Government setting the standards. The underlying theory behind NCLB is well meaning however schools now are not teaching the fundementals they are teaching what is on the tests and that is just wrong.
They are not even teaching "what is on the tests." They are teaching how to do well on the test without knowing the answer.
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