So, I have been having some deep thoughts about the new move in education to over-test our children. For example, the new end of course (EOC) exams for Algebra and Geometry are slotted to be 4 hours long each. Seriously??? What type of information is that going to give us in the long run. The SAT and ACT test (probably the highest stakes tests given as they for college entrance) are 3.5 hours long and test 3+ content areas and have an entire writing portion. Either a child knows Algebra and Geometry or they don’t. I’m sure the teachers could save the state millions by letting you know who does and who doesn’t get it. By the way, who even cares if all people know Algebra and Geometry anyway? We keep saying we want our children to be college and career ready, but really we want all of our children to be prepared for an Engineering track at a 4 year college. Are those the only jobs available in Nevada? What gives those jobs more value over any other jobs?
I tell teachers all of the time: remind yourself every day, you teach children, not tests! You teach children, NOT tests! Right now my son will take the SBAC for his grade level – 5 sessions for both math and ELA, MAPS testing for math and ELA (which takes 1.5 hours for each), EOC exams for both Algebra and Geometry (8 hours each) and then there is science and ELA for EOC exams (no word on the time there). Here is a question: when does he get a chance to get to actually learn the material??
I spend my time training teachers on the educational research behind good assessment. We know that assessment should promote learning, not just measure it. This means there needs to be a balance between formative (assessment for learning) and summative (assessment of learning). Right now, everything is summative and it is robbing children of the ability to actually enjoy education and learn. Spoiler alert: the same children that have done well on tests in the past will continue to do well, and the students who struggle in school will do poorly. You can collect as much data as you want, put as many stars behind it that you can, and test these children to the brink of insanity; however, this is not going to change our educational system. To quote my brilliant friend Carol, “We don’t want to have students fail because of us, and learn in spite of us.”
Here is something revolutionary, let’s quit spending money on testing (and believe me, it is big money), and put money where it will actually do some good – instruction. Let’s spend money on training and supporting teachers in the classroom. Let’s lower class sizes, and pay teachers for the time involved in planning lessons. Let’s spend serious money on students and teachers in grades pre-K through 2nd grade so a sound foundation is built. Let’s stop doing what is convenient for adults and transportation and do what is right for students. I wish I were in charge of this very important world of education, but unfortunately, I am not. I guess for now, I will just have to remind my child to ignore all the test data that he is bombarded with and go outside and have fun at recess!