As I am writing this, we are one night’s sleep away from the beginning of testing season. Unlike the opening day of baseball season, it is not a reason for anyone to celebrate or get excited at the prospects. The bright colors of anchor charts and inspirational posters are shielded from view by white poster paper. The halls that were once bustling with joyful children are replaced by silence and sterility with the occasional student dragging their feet while being escorted by a teacher on the way to or from the restroom. The liveliness and energy of the students has all but been extinguished.
For my 8th grade students, testing season means 4 days of English Language Arts testing, 3 days of Mathematics, 2 days of Science, and 2 days of the Algebra I Keystones (for those who opted in). That amounts to 11 days of lost instructional time out of what is typically a 180 day year. Most adults could not handle that many days of testing and yet our politicians ask our children to endure these tests on a yearly basis. We are testing our students to tears— for what end? Surely this amount of testing time should result in some extraordinary amount of information that will help teachers, students and parents know exactly where their child stands and how they can be best served in the future. Unfortunately this is not the case— at all.
Once the test is completed, students, parents and teachers have to wait until a month or two into the following school year to see any kind of result (just so we are clear, there are states such as Wisconsin that have a 1-2 month turn-around time). The results themselves are deplete of any real information of a student’s strengths and weaknesses and completely devoid of any information about the student’s growth. As teachers we are told that we should use the test to help us understand the needs of the students, but I and many others find the type of information that is provided by the test to be only minimally helpful. Sure, you can figure out whether or not a student is testing to grade level or not, but discerning where their deficits is all but a pipe dream.
As I stand in front of the class tomorrow and read the script: “make sure all your answers are heavy and dark and clear of any stray marks,” I will silently protesting in my head (as I’m sure many of my students will be as well). Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a test to show a student’s progress throughout a year, but there has to be something better than this. Isn’t there?