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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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Our group read the article ‘Thousands rally at Capitol over school funding tests” written by Ciara O’Rourke. This article discussed a rally of many citizens of Texas against the State and the way they were using money. The crowd argued that the State was providing large amounts of money for standardized tests rather than using the money to provide teachers with necessary school supplies to teach their students. They also argued the fact that the teachers were teaching according to the test resulting in missing critical lessons not covered on the standardized test. They stated “Student performance on the test has become the primary measure of success for schools and their leaders.” (Standardized Testing) Teachers are now being paid according to students test scores from the standardized test. This puts the teacher in a difficult situation being left to decide between their jobs and their students’ overall academic success. The citizens of Texas took a stand against this unfair system against both students and teachers in hopes of a change.

We feel that excessive testing does not benefit students academically because they do not have enough time to learn the curriculum. They are not learning any new material because the teachers are teaching to the test, which most of the material on the test does not align to the school’s curriculum or even pertain to state standards. The state spends so much money on the standardized testing and so little on classroom materials. Some teachers are spending a large amount of their own money to supply their students with every day materials. We would love to hear your thoughts!

Bibliography

(n.d.). Retrieved 03 06, 2013, from Standardized Testing: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/editorial-florida-ne...

 

Dear Dr. Hicks,

After reading the following link about ex-Texas Education Commissioners having a forum regarding standardized testing in Texas, I realize that like Florida, the original basis for standardized testing has been lost in the translation. The original idea of assessing students to evaluate acquired learning has been lost in the “new” idea that these tests should be used as a basis for student graduation and teacher incentives. And the reality is that even “commissioners” in the hierarchy of school board administrations have doubts as to the validity of using these tests as the sole basis for advancing students.

“The potential for fraud is incredible.” This phrase was stated in the article and made by one of the ex-commissioners; it was in regards to the use of vouchers for students to use to attend another school. The use of vouchers, whether from a private business or public funds, usually spells bad news. The “incentive” for schools or students to perform well gets lost in the politics. The students lose, the teachers become weary and the schools become focused on the money factor. I feel that schools should receive the same amounts of money for each student, and if a school’s students are struggling then the problem should be addressed. Monies would be available to assist the schools in the helping students, not just to make one school “better” than another. Education is supposed to be fair, free and equal to all children, not just the ones who live in “better” school districts.

How do you feel about education becoming a for-profit business?

http://blog.chron.com/k12zone/2013/02/ex-tea-chiefs-concede-too-muc...

Thank you for participating in our discussions,

Marianne Hall
 
Troy Hicks said:

Hello All,

Prof V. invited me to join in this conversation last week, and I apologize for getting here a bit late. You all certainly hit on a number of the major pros and cons related to standardized testing and I don't have too much more to say about what you have already covered. I do, however, want to raise two important points about how standardized tests have come to be used and what the implications are for the PARCC and SMARTER Balanced assessments that will be coming out in the near future.

First, it is fairly well documented that standardized tests have little to do with student achievement and much more to with poverty levels, social class, and the ways in which our children are conditioned for school. One outspoken critic of standardized tests, Alfie Kohn, offers a variety of examples of how more privileged and, for the most part, white students perform much better on these tests than their minority counterparts. This allows politicians and corporate education reformers to keep pushing for “higher standards” and “market-based reforms.” Other critics, such as Diane Ravitch, have been able to clearly make the case for how such reforms are thinly veiled attemp.... In other words, standardized tests help perpetuate social inequality.

Second, in relation to the new writing standards that are in the common core and the computer adaptive testing that will be a part of PARCC and SMARTER Balanced, you need to understand that these tests are not about writing. Again, in their efforts to find a scientifically based way to judge students' performance, writing ability will be measured by an elaborate grammar checker, otherwise known as “computerized scoring." This is big business for both corporations and politicians, and will have detrimental effects on schools and, more importantly, on the students who are trying to learn how to write.

I was on a panel last fall where we talked about a number of issues related to corporate style reform, and I encourage you to check out our wiki to find more resources that can help you better understand the effects of standardized testing and how you might offer alternative types of assessments for your students. In fact, that's the conversation I would encourage you to have now. What are our other options? How might we use assessment in thoughtful, productive ways to encourage our students to reflect on their work and set higher goals? How can we get out of the debate about standardized testing and move into a conversation about authentic assessment?

 

Dr. Troy Hicks

Central Michigan University

Hello Dr. Hicks,

Thanks for posting the interesting link to Alife Kohn’s perspectives on human behavior & standardize testing. Reform can always be a good way to further education, but implementing tougher standards is truly up for debate. The cartoon of the tank & student at their desk was very suitable. I also enjoyed reading Diane Ravitch’s thoughts on testing & school choice. Since I started elementary school in NY, there was no such option as “school choice”. You went to schools in the community you lived in. When we moved to Florida, much to my parent’s surprise I was placed in some advanced classes, knowing that I was an average student, so I understand some differences in standards between states. I’m glad that educational thinking has changed somewhat in Florida and reform will hopefully be moving forward in ways that suit students needs best, not government.

Thanks or sharing all the other articles attached to your post, they were very interesting and enlightening to read.

Kind regards,

Michelle Anolfo SCF



Troy Hicks said:

Hello All,

Prof V. invited me to join in this conversation last week, and I apologize for getting here a bit late. You all certainly hit on a number of the major pros and cons related to standardized testing and I don't have too much more to say about what you have already covered. I do, however, want to raise two important points about how standardized tests have come to be used and what the implications are for the PARCC and SMARTER Balanced assessments that will be coming out in the near future.

First, it is fairly well documented that standardized tests have little to do with student achievement and much more to with poverty levels, social class, and the ways in which our children are conditioned for school. One outspoken critic of standardized tests, Alfie Kohn, offers a variety of examples of how more privileged and, for the most part, white students perform much better on these tests than their minority counterparts. This allows politicians and corporate education reformers to keep pushing for “higher standards” and “market-based reforms.” Other critics, such as Diane Ravitch, have been able to clearly make the case for how such reforms are thinly veiled attemp.... In other words, standardized tests help perpetuate social inequality.

Second, in relation to the new writing standards that are in the common core and the computer adaptive testing that will be a part of PARCC and SMARTER Balanced, you need to understand that these tests are not about writing. Again, in their efforts to find a scientifically based way to judge students' performance, writing ability will be measured by an elaborate grammar checker, otherwise known as “computerized scoring." This is big business for both corporations and politicians, and will have detrimental effects on schools and, more importantly, on the students who are trying to learn how to write.

I was on a panel last fall where we talked about a number of issues related to corporate style reform, and I encourage you to check out our wiki to find more resources that can help you better understand the effects of standardized testing and how you might offer alternative types of assessments for your students. In fact, that's the conversation I would encourage you to have now. What are our other options? How might we use assessment in thoughtful, productive ways to encourage our students to reflect on their work and set higher goals? How can we get out of the debate about standardized testing and move into a conversation about authentic assessment?

 

Dr. Troy Hicks

Central Michigan University

Dr. Hicks,

First off I would just like to thank you for opening my mind to some aspects of Standardized testing I've never thought of before. Here are my opinionated answers to the questions you've brought up:

Standardize testing can’t be the only way of measuring student achievement. I found a great website that gives some alternative ways to do so. Using an authentic assessment route where teachers give students a task to perform and a rubric by which their performance on the task will be evaluated. These projects could range from conducting an experiment to writing a play, and then creating a portfolio full of collected examples they have done over the course of the year. This could then be used as a thoughtful, productive way to encourage our students to reflect on their work because it allows the student to put as much effort and creativity in order to then reach both the school’s goals and their personal ones as well.

Communication is a key term seen in most of the alternative ways of student assessments brought up on the article, whether it be between teacher and student or teacher and parents. Through daily observation and communication with the student a teacher can often tell how well he/she understands things. Although with that comes a good point the article brought up “Parents might worry about whether or not a teacher's personal and non-test oriented evaluation of his or her students is accurate.” But then again can we assume that tests are any more credible?

Grace Huston SCF

Here is the link to the website:

http://www.standardizedtesting.net/standardized.htm

Dr. Hicks,

To answer your question about "What are our other options?" This is a tough question, however I do believe that the teachers' should be the ones being tested.  I think they should be evaluated throughout the year.  I know with budget cuts this would be hard.  I like what Grace Huston said about "Using an authentic assessment route where teachers give students a task to perform and a rubric by which their performance on the task will be evaluated. These projects could range from conducting an experiment to writing a play, and then creating a portfolio full of collected examples they have done over the course of the year. This could then be used as a thoughtful, productive way to encourage our students to reflect on their work because it allows the student to put as much effort and creativity in order to then reach both the school’s goals and their personal ones as well."

I am a huge believer of the Reggio Emilia approach that "the teacher is considered a co-learner and collaborator with the child and not just an instructor. Teachers are encouraged to facilitate the child's learning by planning activities and lessons based on the child's interests, asking questions to further understanding, and actively engaging in the activities alongside the child, instead of sitting back and observing the child learning. "As partner to the child, the teacher is inside the learning situation" (Hewett, 2001)"   We need to be able to guide our students and to keep them thinking outside the box or even keep them think at a higher level.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach

 

 

Dr. Hicks,

Thank you for adding to our discussion about standardized testing as you made different points that I prior hadn't thought of and reassured my prior thoughts about it. Also, GO CHIPPEWAS! I am from Michigan, and was actually going to come back and attend Central Michigan. Back on topic though, I completely agree with thinking of alternate assessments. Whether it be a project like Kristina Hartley and Grace Huston discussed which was where the teacher gives the student a task to perform and a rubric on which they will be scored, or do multiple tests a year that directly reflects what they are learning in the class. I also completely agree with Michelle Anolfo's posting about tougher standards. I spent many of my elementary school years in Michigan in regular classes and when I moved to Florida I was placed in all advanced. I remember how easy it was for me to adjust as I was doing things that I had learned in the year prior! It was such an odd thing for me to understand. I honestly think that we need to get more of a universal set of learning standards in our country so that we are a little more on the same page and so we do not have to deal with the issue as much about how far behind some states are than others. I know it is a far stretch to think about, but maybe even the smallest of steps will make a difference.

I again appreciate your posting.

Alexis Farley

State College of Florida

Dr Hicks,

Thanks for the isightful post and additional websites you offered. I personally believe standardized tests are an acceptable way to hold students, teachers, schools, districts, and states accountable to the the taxpayers that suport our educational system. What we need to remember is that we are trying to increase the knowledge base, productivity, and to set a higher bar for our future generations. How can we accomplish this without challenging our students and setting difficult benchmarks? With the appropriate tests and training, no one should feel unfairly judged or unprepared.I agree that many changes are in order from a single national standard and curicculum to increasing the scope of the program so that a single test is not the only way a student or school is judged. Teachers can still have the flexibility to teach the way they want rather than teaching the test, but increased training for teachers and schools as well as a training for students to get them more comfortable to the test taking environment would ease the anti standardized testing debate. I just dont think it's going away! I feel that instead of moving to end standardized testing, we need to look at these areas that make it less stressful and more of an oppertunity to show what the students know and how well our teachers are doing to help the students grow and develop. I will surely continue to follow the debate and hope to be able to make positive changes in the future.

Jeff Clark

 

I feel that standardized testing is becoming out of control. For a couple months of the year and sometimes during the year, students will silently sit in their desks crossing out answer choices, listening to directions, and bubbling in answers. I mostly against this, but I do feel that it does measure some students' levels of performances. However, it's becoming the majority factor, which allows for  students creativity, problem-solving ability, and higher-order thinking skills to be ruin. For teachers, more time for testing means less time for actual teaching, like authentic assessments and less reflection on student progresses.

I watched both his episode centering on Garfield High and one based on the teaching system in Finland. The differences in our approaches to teaching are staggering and deeply troubling. "Teaching the test" is probably the best phrase I've heard used to describe the problem most American teachers are faced with. Instead of feeling the freedom to teach with the goal of the most complete understanding of a subject as a whole, teachers feel pressured into teaching single facts and single aspects of subjects that can become very abstract. It was most detrimental to me in my math classes. As a subject that I already struggle with, the idea of learning the "how" without the "why" always made it harder for me to stay focused. If it is still a prevalent teaching guide when I find myself running a classroom, I will do my best to make sure my students feel both prepared for the exam, but also secure in their understanding of the concepts instead of just knowing the formulas.

I personally feel that with all the bright minds we claim to have working in Washington for our education system, we could come up with a more custom fit option.

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