Thoughts from administering a standardized test ….

Test

Onderwijsgek at nl.wikipedia

Today was day 2 of M-Step testing (Michigan’s NEW standardized test) for my 7th grade students. It was a sad day for me. Our day started off with a two hour block of time set aside for our ELA test. We walked down to the computer lab with hands full of books, drinks and food (all for after the test). Many of my students were still in wake up and/or breakfast mode. As the all important directions were read a few students still getting their morning salutations taking care of and clearing out the cobwebs in their minds.

As the students began the test, you could feel the eagerness and desire for success fill the room. This feeling dissipated quickly as the students attacked the daunting task ahead. Reading and listening to multiple articles while answering multiple choice questions and writing short answer responses, the once poised upright figures perched in front of computers turned into slouched mush like figures fidgeting with headphones and tapping keyboards. The two hours crawled by at a snails pace, as each students lost their grit and gave into “just finishing” the test.

I understand the logic of giving “standardized” tests like the M-step. Our society wants to see the efforts and student growth from schools to tell if our students are learning. Does this methodology work? It feels like educational malpractice. This process goes against all that teachers learn in their training. Assessments that support student growth and achievement don’t operate this way.

  • Assessments need to be timely. – M-Step is not
  • Assessments need fast feedback – We don’t know when M-Step results will be shared yet
  • Assessments should measure students’ growth- M-Step is a norm referenced test that ALL students take and it does not adapt to their knowledge level
  • Assessment should allow for students to chose how to express knowledge – M-step doesn’t even give our students a pencil and paper option.
  • Assessments should be created by teachers based upon what they taught- M-Step was mainly created by a corporation based upon standards that may or may not have been taught . (We have 7 weeks left in school year)
  • Assessments should be short and integrated into the flow of instruction. M-Step is disrupting normal instructional patterns over 3 weeks of the school year for my 7th grade students. (While also tying up all computers labs so technology is limited for instruction.)

Common core standards are good. This type of testing is giving them a bad name and making our students appear to not be learning everything they should. Could we make an assessment system that works?

WHAT IF…

  • States trained teachers universally on the new standards
  • Teachers created questions based upon the standards to create a state question bank
  • Districts could create local tests using question banks to measure what was taught built using local curriculum maps
  • Assessments could be given in small chunks at the time of learning units completions to place them in the flow of learning.
  • Students and staff could have instant feedback to adjust teaching and promote students learning and growth.

This could work. Just requires trust from the state in the districts and teachers!