Testing, Testing, 1,2,3…

I have been up in arms a bit lately about the proposed bill in Florida’s House of Representatives. (Read my last post if you want to know why I hate that particular bill.) Truthfully,  I’ve been a little negative about standardized testing for a while now. It is too high pressure for everyone involved. Schools are rated on them. Property values are dependant on them. Now our state want to make teachers paid based on the results of them!  Seriously…isn’t that a lot to ask of kids?

But yesterday I read this post by Ben Grey. He posed the idea that maybe test scores have value as formative data rather than summative data of student (and teacher) achievement. True, our FCAT’s do give us some information. As a language arts teacher, I can get an idea of a student’s basic reading level based on the scores, as well of a place to start with my planning. I also use this data to form homogenous groups when a lesson calls for them and to match students with reading passages when I do multiple texts in one lesson.

I think he’s got a point about looking at testing as formative as well as summative. I’ve never thought about it that way before.

As I read through the comments, though, I noticed something else. Many people talked about other tests they gave through their state, country, area, district, etc. Some prefered these supplemental tests; others liked the combination of data from all the tests. Here we also do FAIR testing to gauge reading level (and predict how well students will do on the FCAT). We do common assessments in math and science. We do grammar screening at the beginning and end of the year. We do practice writing tests. We do exams in all subjects at the end of each semester. Our state is talking about writing more tests for the subjects that currently don’t have any.

I know that each test we give yields useful data that can be used to plan or augment lessons and to get a better idea of where students are and where they need to go. But I wonder…are we testing kids too much? Even each of these tests has a purpose, is there a point where we should just let kids learn, practice, experiment and not have some sort of formalized, analyzed, recorded and reported major exam?

If there is a limit to the amount of tests given to students, where is the limit? How much is too much and how much is just enough? Should teachers limit the amount of testing done in class to mitigate what the district, state, county decides?

Like I said, most of these tests have a purpose and many yield good data, but when we list the tests students get in all subjects and at all levels, it just seems like a lot?

Or is it?

Picture:http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyntiry/ / CC BY-SA 2.0



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3 responses to “Testing, Testing, 1,2,3…

  1. Aaron Eyler

    I tend to think that the overkill can be mitigated by teachers cutting down on the amount of traditional testing they perform in class. In reality, I don’t know how much summative assessment there even needs to be in daily classes. If everything is formative, I see a deeper level of learning taking place and more emphasis on extension rather than finite goals. Units should not be independent kingdoms with no overlap just as courses themselves should not be. When we get to the point where people stop saying, “In our next unit…” or “Next marking period we will…” that’s when I think that true organic learning will take place.

    Great post!
    Aaron Eyler

  2. Pingback: Thoughts on Assessment 3: Writing the obit on summative assessment | Constructing Meaning

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