If you are reading this because you think that this will be a tutorial on how to read your child’s state test scores, you have come to wrong place. If you are looking for an answer as to why your child’s test scores have gone from basic to proficient or the other way around, I’m not sure if I have one. If you have come here because you are tired of the testing machine continually failing our students and schools on many levels, you have come to the right place.
I want to be up front. I am not anti standardized testing. I believe that good tests can give us valuable information about the learning and growth of our students. However in far too many cases, the state tests simply do not serve the purpose that they set out to serve. Herein lies the problem. Students spend hours taking state assessments with hundreds of questions. At the end of the test, all students, parents, and teachers have to show for it is a piece of paper that tells them whether they are basic, proficient or advanced. Where is the data showing the specifics of what the child is struggling with or excelling in? Where is the indication of whether or not a child is improving? Aren’t these the things that actually matter? Aren’t these the very things that we were told the test would show?
At one point in time, the states claimed that these test were used to help teachers better understand the needs of their students. As a teacher, I can tell you that it has done very little to help me. It does nothing to show whether a student has made any growth from one year to the next or in the case of a basic student where they are struggling. If you are a parent of a child who consistently proficient or advanced, you may be more satisfied with the test. But if you are a part of a child who is persistently basic or below basic, you are left to wonder what isn’t working for your child. When you look to the results, there are very few answers to be found. If we truly want tests that help all stakeholders gain a better understanding of a student, then we need to move towards testing that is more transparent in the way that it is presented and analyzed.
Today my students went home with their most current state test results. Our school has done a fairly good job of making it clear to stakeholders that these test results are only one of the many ways by which we measure a student. We are far better than most at looking at the whole child. We acknowledge the fact that the tests do not provide any insight into the creativity of our artists and problem-solvers, the perseverance of our mathematician, or the many other ways that brilliance shows up. Even in a culture that is built to value the whole child, we cannot pretend that these tests don’t matter. The truth is: they do. They play a deep role in the confidence and trust that parents put into our institutions.
In my state, the math scores across the board are deplorable. I cannot help but put very little value in their worth. If only 37% of the state’s children are passing the test, then we must ask ourselves: “Who’s actually failing? Is it the test or our kids?” I believe it’s the former. Isn’t it about time that we demand a test that actually lives up to the value that we put in it? I will not cower to the whims of the testing machine. I will not sacrifice the deep and human-centered learning of our students to the uncertainties of a test that has shown itself to be flawed, at best. As stakeholders, we must demand from our legislators better testing for our students— a test that is worth the time and effort of our students.