If you teach in Georgia, do you see the cryptic message in the title to this blog?
I see bubble scantrons in my sleep. I hear the sharpening of the no. 2 pencils while I drive to and from school. I dream that I lose the testing bucket (that we take with us everywhere we go-even the bathroom). Our morning conversation starters are, “What was your testing dream last night?” My most frightening testing dream involved “test detectors” at the entrance of the school. Each teacher had to walk through(without the alarm going off) on the way in and out. Of course, it was my paranoid, neurotic dream, so the alarm blared when I went through.
I never mean for this blog to be a complaint forum. So, I’ll save those thoughts for the teachers’ lounge. This is after we have all been carried out on stretchers, revived, and placed back in our classrooms. Eventually, the incessant American Idol talk will resume, and our angsty testing woes will be history.
It is best practice to utilize test data for instructional purposes. I get that. However, I wonder how much emphasis should be put on one test? If you saw, Waiting for Superman, you know that American students are deficient in both math and literacy skills. So, how do students (who PASS nationally normed and criterion-referenced tests) move through school without maintaining age-appropriate literacy and math skills? Conversely, what about those students who have a rough testing day and don’t do well on the tests? Does anyone ask the teacher for anecdotal records, or observations from the year to refute the test results?
All year, I try to offer a multitude of learning opportunities to my students. We do projects, we work on critical thinking skills, and we study real literature. But, by April I feel like I’ve sold out, because I’ve mutated into a testing troll. I see myself handing out test packets, and I hear myself discuss test taking strategies. I don’t recognize me.
I began wondering how it all got started.
The earliest record of standardized testing comes from China, where hopefuls for government jobs had to fill out examinations testing their knowledge of Confucian philosophy and poetry. In the Western world, examiners usually favored giving essays, a tradition stemming from the ancient Greeks’ affinity for the Socratic method. But as the Industrial Revolution (and the progressive movement of the early 1800s that followed) took school-age kids out of the farms and factories and put them behind desks, standardized examinations emerged as an easy way to test large numbers of students quickly.
Think for a moment. How would the world of standardized testing change if there were assessments on the arts?
We could integrate art history, literature, music, performing arts, and drama into the mix. We have state standards on all of these subjects, and standardized testing is not going away-so why not sprinkle these elements into the testing recipe? Learning to read and answer questions about a passage or story is essential. Let’s take this one step further. What if the tests assessed the understanding of a specific piece of grade-appropriate literature?
Let’s encourage students to think about how the social and political events of the world have impacted the arts. Think of the Harlem Renaissance, The Great Depression, The Industrial Revolution, the 1920’s,the 1960’s, etc… People use art, music, and literature to reflect how the world changes. Elementary students can make these connections, if they are given the opportunity.
We spend the year teaching with a global view in a holistic manner. I’m wondering why we cannot test students similarly?
The point is to develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition and to guide the child over to important fields for society. Such a school demands from the teacher that he be a kind of artist in his province. Albert Einstein
I know that I would like my students to think beyond the bubble. Just sayin…
Our end of the year project is to write a one-act play. This was my students’ idea-not mine. How could I possibly say no? It will be a challenge for all of us. But I’m hoping my testing troll fades into oblivion.