Our Standardized Journey

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Week two of MSTEP (Michigan’s standardized test) is now in the books, only two more days of checking if our students are up to standard left. Of course we already know they are anything but “standard”. This process is taking a toll on our students having spent over 6 hours this week staring at questions on a computer monitor. What can we take away from this process?

The Good:

  • The test is aligned to the common core state standards: I feel these standards are moving our students in the right direction with learning.
  • MSTEP moves us away from multiple choice ONLY tests. While monitoring test taking, I have noticed numerous open response questions for students to show their knowledge and work. No longer are they ALWAYS offered a chance at getting credit by guessing the best answer.
  • The test is more literacy focused. I notice on all test reading is a key for success. Whether it is reading the directions, a passage,  a diagram or a chart, students need to show their literacy skills. Even the math portion contained a multitude of literacy based questions.

The Bad:

  • Its long! Try getting anyone to sit for two plus hours to take a test, let alone my seventh graders. After 10 minutes, shifting occurs. Many students have a hard time maintaining focus or put forth their best effort after being worn down by a couple of days of testing. (18 hours total over 3 weeks of time.)
  • Its random. The questions order seems to have no rhyme or reason in math and science bouncing from physics to biology or Geometry to fractions. Most school testing groups all similar questions together so students can build up stamina for the task. MSTEP seems to have missed it, jumping all over their learning experience in a very random order.
  • Online is challenging for our students. This is a relatively new medium for them to be taking a test on. Sure computers are great but students need time to get comfortable to taking a test on them. For many students it is the first time using all the tools and reading online for the extended period of time. Testing online is a novelty for our students right now.

The Ugly:

  • The loss of instructional time. We are losing over 18 hours of time that is meant to be for instruction to taking the MSTEP test. This is a bit excessive, especially since districts like ours also have NWEA MAP testing coming up in the coming weeks. Why do we need both tests?
  • Student Burn out. After a two hour testing session, what student wants to go back into the classroom and start working on the next unit? Do homework? Our students want to get outside and let off steam. Be a child!
  • Early Finishers: Not all students work at the same speed. I have some students done in one hour, others need more than two. How do we deal with this? Students are expected to sit quietly until ALL are done. Any teacher knows this is impossible for a class of 30 plus students. It would be nice to have a place to send students, but that would serve as a false incentive for students to “be done”.
  • The Done Syndrome. Our students are feeling like it is finals week. After all this testing is done, will they want to achieve in the classroom or are they ready for summer break? Our school is not out until June 17. Our staff is working valiantly to make sure we have engaging lessons till then so students won’t check out.

I hope the Lansing is watching and listening to teachers and students feedback about testing. The bad and ugly are out weighing the good right now. We need to make adjustments to make this process work for ALL students.

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One thought on “Our Standardized Journey”

  1. I really appreciate you balanced approach here! Standardized testing stinks (my opinion), but I think the “goods” you mention here are real positives in the new test. Unfortunately, I’m with you that there are more “bands” and “uglies” when it comes to standardized tests too. Thanks for sharing your story!

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