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!

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts from administering a standardized test ….”

  1. Great post Todd. My bigger question is what do our students get out this test. This test pure and simply a test of the school. My daughter missed 2 days of her 4 AP classes which begin testing next week. Her AP tests will tell her so much more plus in the end she benefits and I do in that she can finish college early (save $$).

    All this test does along with the ACT for my At Risk & SPED students and my wife’s ELL students is hand them kick in the stomach. My At Risk/SPED students have to spend extra time and it means nothing. My wife’s ELL students in many cases don’t understand the instructions. They want to do well but don’t have the skills after only 1-2 years in this country. Yet they are required to take the tests.

    I could go on and on but it is time to end all of this nonsense.

  2. You bring up some great points Todd. I think my biggest concern is that it doesn’t show growth, but rather a snapshot in time on standards that may or may not have been covered. Assessments should be used to help guide instruction and this version simply does not do that. However, my students and staff have remained positive and I will do the same. I’ve told them all, “Do your best, but don’t stress!”
    Jon

  3. By the time we finish with SBAC and the end-of-the-year District test, we will have spent 8 weeks testing in English Language Arts alone. 8 weeks of time taken from instruction. Some students appeared to do fine. Others struggled so much that it broke my heart. I’m not against testing; I’m against this.

    Please parents and politicians, don’t place so much emphasis on testing.

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