Slice of Life: Testing, Testing

Standardized testing.

It has me feeling some kind of way.

I can’t be alone in this. I know we are legion, those of us wanting to teach in a way that aligns with our moral compass. We are legion, those of us in systems that say they are student-centered, that focus on the development of the whole child, that tell us it’s not about test scores are teaching to the test.

Until test season rolls around, and the conversation becomes about student growth.

As measured by said testing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a data-and-number-phile. Give me test scores, and I am ALL about the error analysis and conclusions to be drawn. I am all about the whole where-are-we-where-do-we-want-to-be-how-will-we-get-there quest.

I just…worry. I worry that colleagues of mine across districts find themselves more often in a march towards Progress, toward Growth, which require Standardization and Consistency. Which are important means, but for many it is an end. I worry we’re losing the heart of things.

That teachers are losing heart.

And so, in the hopes that we can find a better way, and with apologies to William Carlos Williams, I offer the following poems to mark standardized test season:

The Grade School Student

So much depends

A grade-school

Taking a test

In front of an

This is Just to Say

I have taught
the students
that were in
my classroom

and which
you were probably
met standards

Forgive me
they were curious
so ready
and so earnest

Published by Lainie Levin

Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate

17 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Testing, Testing

  1. Last week we had two days of standardized testing. Students were so exhausted from all of the testing. There was another assessment on Monday, and some of our students have a standardized test again on Thursday. I worry about all of this testing, too.

    1. Yes! Our fifth graders in particular had a hard go of it this month. They had three days of science testing, plus a math and language arts MAP. It was a LOT. Poor kiddos.

  2. Like so many other things, standardized are a tool used to help chart students’ growth. They can provide us with valuable information about student needs and our teaching strategies. They should not, however, be looked upon as the goal…the only way to measure student growth. We all know that so many factors enter the equation on test day and can skew the results. We need to take them for what they are, a guide to help students become their best possible selves.

    1. YES! A guide, not a goal. One hundred percent. It’s all the rest of it: wonder, curiosity, determination…THAT is what matters.

  3. Oooh, I have lots of feelings! Unfortunately,I don’t even think The Tests are a good measure of growth, at least not the things I’d like to see growth in. What is that quote or maxim about when a measure becomes the goal, it stops being a good measurement?
    Your second poem says it all for me. When the test becomes the thing, what is lost? Curiosity, readiness to learn, earnest risk-taking…

    1. RIght? I feel like there’s a lot of conversation right now about achievement and learning loss, and I think we could enrich that conversation by looking at all of those OTHER things we need to regain in addition…

      And, your mention of a maxim reminds me of a former superintendent, who said, “weighing the pig don’t make ‘im fatter.”

  4. Oh, that last poem! How do you possibly measure that – that you might have ignited someone’s passion that they didn’t have before, but, they didn’t “meet standard”. It’s so hard. So contradictory…

    1. All of it so difficult, and so contradictory. It’s like, we talk about the importance of the unmeasurables, those “soft skills” and intellectual curiosity. And yet we reward the opposite all too often. It’s a tough place to be.

  5. Love this post, Lainie! Not to gloat but I’ve always felt so fortunate to not have my teaching held to standards. My standards are high, as is my passion, but student growth being measured by numbers would cause me to lose heart too. I feel (and I’ve seen) so many students grow when they are properly inspired, allowed to be curious, allowed to explore, encouraged to participate in projects for which they choose the subject, and not be labeled by a score. My boys’ scores were always great but were they always enriched in school? No. Sadly. And, that speaks to the loss of heart. I love teachers and consider myself one but we have to take something off their plates. Maybe it could be standardized testing. IMO the whole educational system needs an overhaul. Hugs.

    1. You know, my teaching isn’t necessarily held to those standards, and for the teachers in my district, we luckily have the absolute minimum effect size for testing on our evaluations.

      But still. When the community at every level demands it, boy howdy is it tough to combat the stress and anxiety it creates for students and their teachers.

      And like you, I’m in a position that allows me to teach to that very curiosity and urge to explore. I’m trying to figure out ways to help my colleagues do the same. Baby steps.

  6. Love this. And detest the test. It should have been gotten rid of years ago before legions of children were made to feel inferior when they actually have myriad gifts to give the world, that the world needs. Teaching really is supposed to be about engagement and inquiry and creativity and problem-solving and… so much that a test cannot capture. I stand with you, friend, all the way.

    1. Thank you, Fran. For so many folks I interact with, the yearly push toward test scores feels so counter to core beliefs. And it’s not though measurement has no place, it just…should be part of a whole spectrum of information on each of our learners.

      (steps back off soapbox)

  7. “so ready / and so earnest.”
    Yes. I don’t want to forgive that, I want to revel in it. I have always struggled with standardized tests, both as a student and a teacher. I wish we could find more human-centered ways to evaluate students’ progress.

    1. more human-centered ways.

      If only the pendulum would begin its otherward path…if only.

  8. So many thoughts here! When will this testing frenzy end? We got our standardized test results back yesterday and people are congratulating us on our scores, which feels so wrong.

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