Sunday, April 24, 2011

Testing Dilemmas

I feel for people who want to measure how their kids are doing! It can seem important to see their test results, to reassure ourselves that they are learning what they should know.

On the other hand, as a test-giver for low these many years, I recognize that many variables influence testing. The student's mood, their confidence, their skills, the relevance of test questions, the motivation, the ability to withstand pressure, and even the time of day can all affect how students do on a test.

I used to take reading scores as gospel, but I've found that reading, especially, is very difficult to measure productively. Someone's background in the area read is crucial. I used to do demos for teachers where I showed them a "college" level text and asked them questions. In some areas, they could read at a college level, but in unfamiliar areas (such as nuclear physics) the same reading level seemed incomprehensible. Why should our kids be any different? When people say there is a racial gap, couldn't it possibly be partly because of the subject matter and the background of the students? If so, isn't it the TEST that is partly at fault? It makes testers immensely powerful if they can determine the types of questions that are defined as "good" reading levels. Do we want to give them all that power? People used to say that tests were biased- what happened to that concept? Now they just call the teaching bad.

I wish I could teach in a democratic school where only the STUDENTS could decide when and what they would test on. Let's try to develop more of these. It would disempower the testers and empower students instead. A much more worthwhile endeavor!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

No More Testing!

I am already tired of state testing and it hasn't really begun! The thought that THIS is the thing we should emphasize, getting EVERYONE to come and put out their best effort , is ridiculous.

There are lots of real problems in the world, things that would behoove our adults and children to work on solving. But here we are all worrying, instead, about how to answer certain kinds of questions in the exactly correct way so as to be judged as fit to graduate from high school.

Maybe we should be asking- graduate to what purpose? What do I REALLY want to do with my life? What if that were the whole and complete test? Nobody could graduate until they gave a complete answer to that question. And their answer would have to be somehow connected to making the world a better place to live. And they would have to demonstrate that they had ALREADY done this, to some extent!

At Sudbury Valley school this is just the graduation requirement- they defend the thesis that they are a responsible person.

Now THAT would be a worthy graduation test :)

GOod luck on this wonderful testing week :(