Lost in standardized tests

Having just completed the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (MSTEP) with my 7th grade students, I am finding we are lost in standardized tests. After years of media reports that the American Educational system is in need of life support. Our government in a need to justify funding for education has decided to find an easy measure to “see” the effectiveness of the educational system.  States have been encouraged with “Race to the Top” financial incentives to measure teaching by examining student standardized test scores. This entire process has made our educational system all about “THE TEST” and not about learning or the STUDENTS.

American students are anything but standardized. Coming from a wide variety of ethnic and economic background. Some students arrive in kindergarten reading books others arrive without being able to recognize a letter. In our current system the expectation is that ALL students will be meeting the same standard by the end of the year. Is this system fair for all students? Once a student is behind, without major supports they will be behind for their entire educational career.

From my vantage point our testing culture is KILLING students passion for learning. This year Griffin, my 11 year old son, came home from school for the first time saying “I can’t wait to be done with school!” He loves learning, but this passion is being driven out in school. When I asked why? He responded, “This dang test sucks, too long, with no feedback as to if I am going in the right direction.” I was taken aback.

As I pondered his comment, I realized how right he was. MSTEP was sucking the learning out of students. During “regular” school assessments students are connected to the current content by instruction. Standardized tests are just random questions with no logic of order. Students are allow to ask the teacher questions and get feedback on the direction they are heading on classroom assessments getting clarification on misconceptions. Standardized assessments teachers have to stick to a script and ONLY re-read the directions. Classroom assessments are corrected in a timely manner, often the day of the test so students know their outcomes immediately. Standardized tests like the MSTEP, have delayed results that often are confusing to students so no corrective actions can be taken.

Do standardized test results equal success? I wonder, what is the correlation of SAT, ACT or MEAP score to career success? Didn’t the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, score highly on the SAT? Should states be putting SO much weight on these snapshots?

I wish politicians would listen and trust the educational experts, teachers, and stop this standardized madness.