I'm an educator with only a few years experience, and most of it abroad, so today was my first day giving out and administering a standardized test. I thought I would collect my impressions and try to weigh in on the big debate. I was neutral beforehand. I know that effective teaching can only be measured in ways that cannot be put on a test, like giving someone confidence or inspiring someone to reach new intellectual heights. I think most teachers would be happy to know that a kid they educated went on to become a molecular biologist that works on ending world hunger rather than knowing their class scored "above average" on a test. I also know standardized tests are not completely useless. You need to track progress some kind of way. So, what happened when I first got some real life experience?
First off, it's so easy to cheat. If you really wanted to. I don't care about the test myself. I know my kids will do fine, and a lot of them are ESL learners who haven't been in the U.S. even a full year. Even the ESL learners were telling me the test was a cinch after it was all done. When I collected their sheets, I thought to myself "If I were being paid based on the results of this test, then I could just switch some of these answers in the office. Heck, I could even offer subtle hints now as to what the answers are." No official from the standardized testing company was there to vouch for the integrity of their test. You just send the results off. I'm sure that other schools probably have more stringent rules, but without someone from the company there, the only way you could tell there wasn't cheating would be whistle-blowers.
If I were going to be able to get a new car or make a few extra thousand from erasing a few bubbles, I could see how some people could sleep at night doing it and pull it off.
I don't teach what's on the test. First off, most of the questions have no real world applications, have little to do with critical thinking skills, and most of the time test to see if the child can mine for important words or spit out rote, memorized information. My 7th graders do Algebra I, World History, Chemistry/Physics, and a host of other topics at a much deeper level, beyond what the core state curriculum calls for, which is what I thought the test would try to capture. I have 12 year old children in my English class comparing short stories for imagery and symbolism, and crafting thesis statements, so having them read long, boring stories and answering questions that oftentimes you can just answer by looking at the wording seems like a poor use of class time.
I couldn't imagine teaching what's on the test. The lessons would be stale, half the time they wouldn't be challenging, and all I'd do is churn out drones. I'd rather have kids who knew what logical fallacies are and how to reason than if the know what a memometer is. If they need one, I want them know how to find it for themselves. These tests can't capture that.
So where do I come down in this debate? I feel the test was a waste of time. I don't think designing lesson plans around what is being tested would make for lifelong learners. I don't see how the test has any integrity, and I'm not sure why our school shells out money to do the test just so they could put that they do well on standardized tests on some pamphlet. Wait. Well, the testing company does make a tidy profit there doesn't it?
I get it.