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Comments about ‘Poll: Parents back high-stakes testing’

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Published: Saturday, Aug. 17 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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worf
Mcallen, TX

Do we send our children to be tested, measured, pressured, than compared?

I thought it was to be teaching, and learning.

Can someone give an example of how testing has improved learning over the passed thirty years? Just one example.

AChapin
Albany, Linn, OR

We know how to find the effects of " Dumb Down Education " you find out what they know and what the don't know and help them accordingly. If you don't test how do you know where to go next. The teachers Union does not want this. maybe, just maybe we should test the teachers with this also. Aloha / Shalom

worf
Mcallen, TX

@AChapin:

" If you don't test how do you know where to go next."?

It's called "report cards", and good "text books". Again: I'll rephrase:

"Can someone give an example of how standardized testing has improved learning over the passed thirty years? "

Carolyn Sharette
Sandy, UT

There are many, many examples of how testing has improved learning. Students who take the ACT or SAT, score lower than they need to in order to gain admission to their preferred universities, use the feedback from the test and study, study, study with tutors, take classes, sign up for more rigorous high school classes, and learn more just due to that motivation.

At our schools, American Preparatory Schools, we not only administer the state testing, but we normally administer a national, norm-referenced test to all students in the spring so we can ensure that we are not just doing well by Utah standards, but so that our students will be able to compete with students across the country for university positions that they seek.

Each year, we look carefully at those results (both state and national tests) and we tweak our instruction to better teach our students. The learning improves, and over the past 10 years scores rise as students learn more.

Our parents LOVE the fact that we hold ourselves accountable for student success and do all we can to maximize it. This is why we have over 11,000 students on our wait lists.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

I won't say that standardized testing won't give feedback. I think Carolyn your first example of the ACT test isn't a good example because it merely gave them data on what they needed to study to do better on the test itself. It didn't ask them to take concepts deeper or look at them critically or even do creative work.

The only program that truly stresses creative, critical and in-depth learning is the International Baccalaureate program which several schools have. Instead of bubble tests say for history, all the test is essay so students must explore a subject in depth and critically analyze the information. They must also complete an in-depth research paper. In other areas such as art, students must present a portfolio of their work.

I think the good things you have done Carolyn, if tests have any use, is to maybe identify, especially in younger students, what areas could be emphasized better. But be careful, again these tests have cultural bias and only test limited amount of knowledge usually in one modality (the bubble format or computer version thereof).

As for creativity in our schools, standardized test is killing it.

worf
Mcallen, TX

Today as compared to thirty years ago:

* more poverty.
* higher unemployment.
* over half our people being fed by government.
* a third of our college graduates from other countries.
* half or more going to American college students are in need of remedial classes.
* more of our population on the dole.
* many of our skilled work force are workers from foreign countries. Medical, engineers, chemist, etc. In the technical manufacturing area of Edison, New Jersey,-seventy percent of the people are from India, and China. Our car transmissions, and engines come from foreign engineers.
* lower literacy.

This doesn't represent an educated population, and displays standardized testing as a method of classifying and holding people accountable. Again:

"Can someone give an example of how standardized testing has improved learning over the passed thirty years? "

worf
Mcallen, TX

Howard Beal--You hit the nail on the head. Thanks for a good point.

Coach P
Provo, UT

I've taught and coached for a lot of years. But this concept is rarely talked about amongst this high-test staking especially to evaluate teachers and schools.

Everyone just assumes when testing that all groups of students are the same from year to year. This can further from the truth. You see in coaching, I've had classes (or years) of students much more talented than other years and/or much harder workers than other years.. I might generally teach the same concepts the same way and get way variable results.

Take this to the school situation, Teacher X has good test scores with her third graders. They move on and she gets another set of third graders. She teaches generally the same way because she had success. Her test scores go down. Now because of low test scores, she's evaluated poorly. Perhaps with these newer proposed models she's denied her next step in pay. Perhaps the school is labeled a failing school because she and a few other of her comrades had lower test scores.

The real problem lies with with a plan that has understanding of statistics nor common sense.

Carolyn Sharette
Sandy, UT

Howard I appreciate your comments. The purpose of testing is not to test creativity, but to ascertain whether or not students have the skills and foundational knowledge with which to be creative.

It is a falsehood to believe that students who lack skills (reading, arithmetic, writing) have the ability to be very creative. The most creative - the ones who are able to generalize, synthesize, and persuade - are the ones who have strong foundational skills and knowledge. That is the purpose of the tests - to determine if the students have what it takes to be creative.

I would also argue that some of the higher level tests do require immense creativity. The reading passages are complex and require higher-order thinking skills to comprehend them and to apply what is written there. Conclusions must be drawn, and can be expressed utilizing multiple-choice questions. There are some excellent tests that do test higher-order thinking (ACT and SAT included).

If our students show that they have the foundational skills and factual knowledge, which we can learn from these tests, THEN they have the building blocks needed to develop their creativity. It is vital to know if students have that base.

Carolyn Sharette
Sandy, UT

Coach - I think the problem lies in your statement "I might teach the same concepts the same way and get variable results" - referring to the fact that you may get a different set of students each year, and some may not be as proficient as others when you get them.

It is true that nearly every year, a teacher is faced with a new classroom of students, who will have different abilities than her students the previous year. But testing can really help us out here - we can know, going into the year, the general ability levels of our students if we analyze their scores from the prior spring.

Then, the teacher, working with administration, must devise a plan to get 100% of the students to proficiency by year's end. This will require creating an appropriate schedule, with time on task perhaps increased in some areas and maybe even establishing a different school-wide schedule to get the job done. It may require different pedagogical approaches.

The strange thing about many schools is they do NOT implement these basic ideas. They teach the same way, year after year, independent of student needs. Mediocre results are the natural outcome.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

I will be bold and say in a generation we will reap disaster because of these tests. So much time is emphasized in schools for testing that it does create both gaps or holes in education for children as well as stifle creativity. Everything is so geared to English and Math that other subjects get perfunctory treatment. Recess or play time has been cut back. At the high school level, I've seen whole schools have to shut down their computer labs for the last six weeks of school due to testing. I guess we shouldn't let education get in the way of testing ha ha. Then when teachers actually have a student show up to their class, they are hauled off to take some test missing that teacher's curriculum. And what is the cost of getting 100% "proficiency"? What other subjects have been ignored? Music, art, P.E., Science, Social Studies? Even play? And again, are the students producing anything on these tests are choosing A, B, C or D on a multiple choice test. I got 33 on my Math ACT but I didn't know jack about math processes. But I knew how to take tests.

Carolyn Sharette
Sandy, UT

I just couldn't disagree more. Our schools provide excellent music, art and PE programs, after-school clubs like chess, sports, robotics and drama. The required end-of-level tests are all given across about 8 days at the end of the year, (although each student only tests for about 4 days) leaving us 172 school days to ensure we are providing high quality teaching of relevant, exciting and challenging content.

We put lots of focus on History, we are very strong in STEM, and all our kids study Latin for at least 2 years. All kids study music every year through 6th grade, and can continue on if they choose, or choose Art instead. We have an after-school music program as well.

I just don't see how taking a test for a couple hours a day for 4-5 days can destroy a school's programs or ability to be successful. Testing gives us GREAT information that really helps us make decisions about our teaching practices.

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