Monday, March 3, 2014

Is it time to stop "TEACHING" and start "TESTING?

 It is annual rite of passage each Spring as students and teachers trudge reluctantly towards “testing season”.  Unlike many educators, I am not philosophically opposed to standardized testing.  Common assessments across the state do give us a certain necessary level of accountability that to this point seems unattainable (at least efficiently) in any other way.  We have to keep in mind it is “one measure, on one day”, but that doesn’t make the information we receive about the students invalid. What it does mean, is that we have to hold ourselves accountable to not making the testing results the only thing we use to determine a school, a teacher, or even worse, a students’ level of competence.  Society frames issues into things they can understand:  A student passes or fails; a teacher is deemed good or bad based on said student passing or failing; a school administrator is a great leader or a terrible failure based on this “one measure, on one day” all because we understand the simple concept of good or bad. 

It is because of this, that educators often put unnecessary pressure on themselves to have good test scores.  Yes, business leaders and others that judge schools by their test scores contribute to the pressure, but undoubtedly they are not the only scapegoats.  The moment we stop “teaching” and shut down our classrooms for “test prep” we send a message not just about what is important, but about what we believe. In our District we study the Principles of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum. Those principles include statements like “we learn best with and through others” and “every student should experience a thinking curriculum”.  Do we really believe that innovation and collaboration are important? Do we allow for inquiry or demand the single correct answer?  Hard questions when you are faced with a system that judges you on a “one measure, on one day” assessment.  Let’s not blame the test however (I know for a fact a lot of very talented teachers wrote it), instead let’s keep teaching with authentic tasks and the types of experiences we TRULY BELIEVE are best for students.  It sends a powerful message that you have confidence in what you do…and more importantly, you have confidence in your students.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Dr. Thornell. I couldn't agree more that inquiry based learning will create proactive and problem solving citizens. I'm in an IB world school and teach some MYP courses, and that's what it's all about!

    Miss you!
    Megan (Banks) Gabriel