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Open Discussion: Standardized Testing Starts February 18th to the 22nd

Please note: Dan Rather has not yet posted the full documentary for viewing. You may see the synopsis at : Dan rather Reports

 

As students you have all had experiences with standardized testing.  Now you are all future teachers in training. Please post your ideas and perspectives on the efficacy of standardized testing on our students.  Feel free to post the positive and negative effects that you have personally experienced as students and as teachers.

The teachers at Garfield High have initiated a public awareness of an already growing national discussion in the debate over standardized testing.

The debate at Garfield is that they are not against testing in general, but are resistant to using the map assessment they believe it does not measure what they are expected to teach.  This opens up a venue for discussion for us.  Think about your states standardized test and ask yourself,

  1. Is this a quality test?”
  • “Does it align to curriculum?
  • Will it align to the new Common Core State Standards?
  • Does assessment ensure that the tests we use are the most valid and effective assessments?
  • Do they measure the skills that our students need for success?
  • Do these assessments provide teachers the information needed to help them analyze student needs?

 2. How did you feel as a student taking it?

3.  How do you feel as a future educator giving it?

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Great points! I agree that most jobs do require a good deal of critical thinking and these tests can only measure the basic skills learned, especially when they give you multiple choice answers.  Not much critical thinking required, when you can just guess & hope to be lucky.

I never liked taking these tests because of the stress levels associated with them on behalf of the students. I remember getting all worked up, worrying that I wouldn’t pass & be promoted to the next grade level. As I got older, I learned a failed outcome would be different, but still never liked testing. There’s something about the time factor that made me nervous.

The SAT & ACT are such different types of testing and it's so strange that when you take these tests how your first score typically is the best. Why is it that when you take those test, you think that you’d do better after repeated tries? That never worked out good for me?

I enjoyed reading your discussion & agree with your comments. Hopefully testing doesn’t serve as such a rigid guideline for the ways teachers teach and students learn, since its very individual. 



Gretchen Roth said:

Do standardized testing measure the skills needed for success?  No, they do not.  Most jobs require a great deal of critical thinking.  The standardized test makes sure you know the basics and that you can pick out the correct answer in a choice between 4 or 5 answers, but where does it test and prove that you have the critical thinking skills needed to be successful?

I do believe though, that the standardized test do provide the teachers the information that they need to help them analyze the students needs.  The test shows the teacher where the child is behind and/or struggling , even the concepts that they are struggling with.  It shows the teacher where their strongest area is.  It can even point the teacher in the direction that the student learns the best.

I hated taking the MMAT as a student.  Mainly because I do not like multiple choice tests.  I was very stressed.  As a parent, I am not as stressed as I was when I was doing the test.  My children are stressed and freaked out about it.  My fifth grader right now, is not as worried about it as he was in 3rd grade, but still it is on his mind already.

I feel that if the test is set up to follow the same standards I am suppose to be teaching, then I have no problem with the test.  I do not feel that the test should be the only thing taught.  It should be a sampling of what should be being taught anyways.  I do hope that like the SAT and ACT they start producing practice tests.  That way we as teachers could eliminate the fear the students have about the test because it is an unknown.

 

I think that if the teachers from Seattle aligned together with such a strong urgency on the validity of the MAP test, you’re correct it was for good reasons. If that test is not curriculum based then it can only be a guideline and nothing more. Big unions and associations typically do not act unless there is significant data to bring attention to something, nevertheless Washington. I think it is fine for students to participate in tests to see what they’re learning, but not to the standards of the MAP. Testing should only be done on what is directly taught. You cannot assess a student on a math topic algebra based when they’ve only learned geometry. You had good suggestions and I agree with the unfairness factor.



Marlene Weinert said:

In answer to the question "Is this a quality test?" I would have to reply "No. If teachers at a high school that is rated as "one of the best" nationwide takes issue with the MAP test, I say we should listen.  The test was cited as not being aligned with the curriculum, so how could it possibly measure what has been taught if there is a mismatch, for example, as was pointed out in the video, you cannot asses knowledge of algebra with a geometry question, it simply is not valid and does not measure the skills taught. Additionally, it is very telling that the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers union and legislators in Washington, D.C. took notice of this as well. A test named "Measures of Academic Progress" that has been described as creating an inequality and being unfair is not something I want my future students subjected to.

From a student’s point of view and as a bad test taker I believe standardized testing should be banned. I had to take the FCAT since elementary school all the way to my senior year of high school. Every year I would struggle with it, I finally passed my LAST time I was able to take it before graduation and I cried tears of joy when I found out. I think that just goes to show how much stress it puts on students. From a teachers stand point I stand by my point of view as a student, it not only puts stress on students but teachers as well. I've been observing and talking to teachers about the FCAT and they have to prep the students in class for the FCAT as well as doing their normal lessons. It’s even hard on teachers because not all students learn the same way. I believe it may be a little different if the questions on standardized tests were things that teachers can put into their own lesson plans but since they can't even see the test that seems a little impossible. I give props to those teachers at Garfield High school for taking a stand. I can see the pros and cons on standardized testing after watching this video and reading other posts. But I have a strong opinion about this topic because I had such a hard time with the FCAT myself as a student.

I feel as though the intentions of giving a standardized test are good, however in reality I think that they are not as effective as they mean to be. After watching the video clip it is clear that there are major concerns about the map test that teachers should be aware of. I remember taking the FCAT from third grade until my junior year of high school. I had always done well with standardized testing and while the majority of it aligned with the curriculum there were still friends of mine who did not do well because they did not test well. These same friends had grades that were more than acceptable. I do not think that these standardized tests are effective because it measures students based on one test on one day. It does not measure a student throughout the year. I feel as a future educator that while it is nessesary I would not be thrilled to give it. There seems to be a lot of pressure on teachers for their students to test well. Teachers also teach to the test instead of teaching subjects more generally. They structure a lot according to how the FCAT test is going to be. I think that there is good intention when it comes to standardized testing, but I feel like there is a much more effective way to test a student.

I could understand the setting goals aspect of the test. However I agree that maybe they should be able to do that with their own testing. Since teachers are expected to teach to state standards they should know and be able to test students according to that. They will also be able to understand a student better than someone grading a test of someone they do not know. I think that teachers should have more of a role in the testing department. Especially if standardized testing continues.
 
Braedan Mudd said:

I personally do not remember taking any mandatory standardized testing when I was a student. As a teacher I don't think I would be happy having to teach students how to pass a mandatory standardized test. I think that if a student doesn't pass the standardized test they will automatically shut themselves out of school because they will think they are not smart enough to understand. I also don't believe that standardized tests fully show how much information a student absorbs because there are so many different ways a student could show the correct answer. Also one of the teachers in the video talked about how he thought showing the students their testing grades helps them set goals for themselves, although I think that if he created his own "testing" then he could do that for himself and not have to rely on standardized testing.

 

This is not a quality test becuase it does not align with the curriculum beign taught. In the video a teacher stated that as students were taking an algebra test there were geometry questions which would be like asking science questions in an English class.

As a student growing up I felt that some of the questions they were asking were almost foreign. Some of the questions that I was faced with covered content I had never even heard of. Facing this as a student is frustrating from a teacher standpoint knowing that students are being assessed on information that was not taught because it was not required to be taught. I do not want to be responsibile for giving these students this test which the students are not 100 percent prepared for which does not give them a valid chance of scoring a 100.

This isn't a quality test, since it's not measuring what students are being taught. If it doesn't align with the curriculum why would it be tested? The state has standards and teachers must cover those standards, and there are tests that measure those standards. It doesn't make sense to test something a student has never been taught. Not all assessments are valid and effective. This one is not valid and the students and teachers recognize this. I'm glad this is making a buzz and actions are being taken because too many times a test isn't valid and is still administered.

As a student I remember having to read what felt like so many passages and having to answer questions about them. It wasn't so bad, and at the time my teacher didn't put such a heavy weight on it, which I feel was best.

As a future teacher I don't want to be pressured into teaching to the test. I wouldn't feel right if this "MAP" test was being given at the future school I taught at, and I believe teachers, including myself would take a stand against it.

Seeing how Garfield High is working around standardized testing was a very interesting video. I completely agree with what they are doing. Standardized testing can be looked at in many different lights; it can be seen as helping to gauge where a single student is at or even the average level of the whole school, it is sometimes seen as good for helping see how well students can recollect information from prior years, and it can sometimes be seen as a nuisance and a complete waste of time and money. 

I have grown up in Florida, so I was forced to take the FCAT starting in elementary school all the way up to my junior year of high school. How every student in the whole school did on this test affected the "grade" of the school. Because of this, most of the lessons in my classes got cut short or were non-existent and were replaced with "FCAT Preparedness". I appreciated the lessons that helped me to succeed in the FCAT, but I felt very slighted in what I could have been learning that pertained to the class that I was in. We would have to cover these in any class on any given day, even in my music classes. I feel as if I would have gotten more out of the whole standardized testing experience if we had been reviewing the actual material that was going to be on the test rather than learning ways to recognize if and when the test was "tricking" us and what the most common answer was in the past years. 

I always felt very frustrated taking the test because I knew that it was determining whether or not I could pass my current grade or even if I could graduate high school, while I never felt as if it was asking for any information that I had learned in the past two years. I would greatly dislike giving this test to my students and preparing them for it, because it would take too much teaching time away. 

I personally do not agree with standardized testing as the only testing taken into consideration to determine knowledge. I feel that they are bias and unfair and are limited to what they test. Teachers are no longer teaching a curriculum, they are teaching to pass a test. There are many other things that can be done to determine if children are learning than just one test. I had one of my son's teachers tell me at a conference that she knew he was struggling with some of the math concepts, but they had been preparing for FCAT for the past 2 months and she did not have time to work on the curriculum, so it was on hold until FCAT testing was over. She said she could concentrate on getting him caught up then. ARE YOU SERIOUS???? This was in 3rd grade! He is a freshman now, but I will never forget that parent/teacher conference. Again, this is just my opinion.

I was never required to take a standardized test in my public school years, but standardized testing is everywhere. After high school I had to take the ASVAB test when I joined the US Navy. It is used to evaluate candidates entering the armed forces and sets minimum requirements for various job classifications. Although I did not take the SAT, they also evaluate candidates and depending on the score, colleges can admit or deny enrollment. Even at my current job, we have to take standardized tests concerning competency, proficiency, emergency procedures, and safety. Standardized testing is not going away, it’s becoming more of the norm. For students to have to take standardized tests in school offers them valuable opportunity and experience that they will hopefully use later in life. I’m by no means saying that every test is practical, fair, or even useful, but as a whole, its better that students get used to being assessed and compared to their peers earlier in life rather than later. 

I think the teachers at Garfield High are doing a disservice to their students by making such a public spectacle of the standardized test debate. If the state requires the test because of accountability laws, then the teachers are required to administer it. If it doesn’t align with the curriculum, then they are teaching the wrong curriculum or the test needs to be altered. Either of which can be accomplished without student distraction.  Teachers breaking rules do not have the students’ best interest in mind.

 

The program was very informative and I feel it hit on many good points. As it stands, I do not like the idea of standardized testing, but with tweaking done by actual teachers who are actually qualified I can see its use. As Marlene and others have mentioned, one of the top schools had teachers take issue with the MAP Test for the reason that it had content not part of the curriculum. Standardized testing currently forces many teachers to "Teach the Test"; which is somewhat disappointing and a waste of talent when these "teach the test" mentalities cause time constraints and teacher must cram the necessary knowledge for a student to pass the test. I believe creating standardized tests based possibly on an individual school's curriculum, or even a teacher's curriculum would yield better results and allow teachers to branch out in more teaching methods and styles to create an engaging environment for students where everyday can be something they enjoy, rather than a constrained schedule where they may rush through areas they like and drag through areas they find boring. Testing at the beginning and end of the year is a great way to see student progression and I don't believe testing of that sort should be removed. It seems that politics currently run a lot of what teachers have to deal with, rather than teachers and other education majors who are more qualified running the show.

Standardized testing is a highly controversial and well debated topic. To answer some of the stated questions in this discussion forum I would have to say:

Standardized testing evaluates a student’s performance on one particular day and does not take into account external factors. There are many people who simply do not perform well on tests. Many of these students are smart and understand the content, but it doesn’t show on the test. Many students also develop test anxiety which hinders performance. Finally, there are so many external factors that play into the test performance. Standardized testing causes many teachers to only “teach to the tests”. This practice can hinder a student’s overall learning potential. With the stakes getting higher and higher for teachers, this practice will only continue to increase. The sad reality is that it fosters an atmosphere that is boring and lacks creativeness. Teachers have such pressure to get their students ready for these exams that they neglect to teach students skills that go beyond the tests. Standardized testing only evaluates the individual performance of the student instead of the overall growth of that student over the course of the year. This can harm both the teachers who worked hard to help their students grow and the student who worked extremely hard over the course of the year and improved tremendously, but failed to score proficient. Many would argue, and I agree, that teacher and student performance should be evaluated on growth over the course of the year instead of one single test performance. Standardized testing can create a lot of stress on both educators and students. Excellent teachers quit the profession everyday because of how much stress is on them to prepare students to perform on standardized tests. Students especially feel the stress when there is something meaningful tied to them. For example in Oklahoma, high school students must pass four standardized tests in various areas or they do not earn their diplomas, even if their GPA was a 4.00. The stress this can cause on a teenager is not healthy in any way. Standardized testing can be wrongfully used as fuel for those with political agendas. This is a sad reality far too often across all levels of the political realm. Education is a hot political topic and rightfully so, but the center of this debate is often standardized test scores. The truth is that standardized test scores are often looked at as the end all for student and school success and it shouldn’t be that way. Many would argue that those politicians who try and use standardized test scores as a means to further political agenda are ignorant in their knowledge of what education and learning is truly about.

Standardized testing holds teachers and schools accountable. Probably the greatest benefit of standardized testing is that teachers and schools are responsible for teaching students what they are required to know for these standardized tests. This is primarily because these scores become public record  and teachers and schools who don’t perform up to par can come under intense scrutiny. This scrutiny can lead to the loss of job and in some cases a school can be closed or taken over by the state. Now, with that said, I am not so sure that it is the greatest benefit as a lot of people might think, and that is for the reasons that I did mention above.

Standardized testing allows students located in various schools, districts, and even states to be compared. Without standardized testing this comparison would not be possible. Being able to accurately compare data is invaluable and is a major reason that the Common Core State Standards have been adopted. These will allow for a more accurate comparison between states.

Standardized testing is typically accompanied by a set of established standards or instructional framework which provide teachers with guidance for what and when something needs to be taught. Without this structure a third grade teacher and a sixth grade teacher could be teaching the same content. Having this guidance also keeps students who move from one school district to another from being behind or ahead their new school.

I can go on and on with this subject and we will always find pros and cons. But, I think that the bottom line is that we as teachers, politicians, parents and community people, to list a few, have to keep in mind what is important for our kids and their future education.

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