Testing

I was at camp today when I heard from my friend (the director, the one I’m living with) that she had gotten an email about the state test scores.  Apparently, they decided to make the standards for passing much higher than previously.  The Rochester City schools did not fair well at all.  The school district where my friend works did not do that great either.  I have not heard about the districts at home.  This all begs to question a few things.  First, were the standards changed unfairly?  Second, are teachers teaching to the test (thus why everyone has failed)?  Lastly, have we really gotten less proficient in these subjects?

First, the benchmark for passing was changed after the test had already been taken.  I can see why many would think that this is unfair; but in reality, if teachers aren’t teaching to the test than this shouldn’t make a difference.  Regardless of where the standard is set, the teaching shouldn’t change.  Teachers should be aiming to help their students learn everything that they can – not just things that they need to pass the test.  Teachers should not be teaching to the test.  These tests are meant to show us how our students are doing, not how well they can complete the test.

Second, I think that some teachers do teach to the test, while some do not.  I do not believe that teachers should be teaching to the test.  I think that if teachers show passion and excitement, they will be able to transfer some of that passion to their students and their students will want to learn more and do better.  I don’t think that a teacher should be so worried about the test that they are unable to help their students become lifelong learners.  Students should not be so worried about passing the test that all they think about is knowing what they need to in order to pass the test.

Third, we have not become any less proficient in the subjects tested.  Most of the schools that are seen to have gone down in their test scores actually performed at the same level as they had last year.  However, since the standard was raised, it appears that they have become worse.  I understand that people want these tests so that things are more uniform and so that we know that kids are learning.  But learning isn’t about scoring well on a test.  Learning is about figuring things out and being able to quench your thirst for knowledge.  A teacher should never rush a child through a thinking process just so they can help them learn what they need to pass the test.  A student should never think they can’t ask questions because there isn’t enough time for them to get the answers and learn what they need for the test.

There are parts of the education system which I find extremely flawed.  I have toyed with the idea of not being a teacher, but trying to reform the education system, but I don’t know yet how I want to reform it – so it’s probably not a good idea to go down that path yet.  I am a teacher and I will teach kids.  And, hopefully, the kids that I teach will find their curiosity growing and their thirst for knowledge quenched – not squashed by the tests that they have to take.

How do you feel about state tests?  Do you think that they are good and beneficial?  Or do you think that there is a better way to be sure that students are reaching standards?

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