On April 11th I’m going to feel great!
My mind is going to be focused and my memory sharp.
I’m going to be rested and alert.
I’m going to eat my favorite breakfast.
Nothing is going to happen in my community or family to distract me from the task at hand.
I’m going to be ready for the BIG TEST!
If I picked a random date off the calendar and told you all of the above, you would not only think I was more than a bit optimistic, but you would also be a bit skeptical of my ability to actually accomplish my goals. Yet we absolutely expect hundreds of students to do exactly that- be focused, rested, alert, and ready to take a major standardized state test on a date picked by us. And many of these children have NO control over any of the factors that will affect their ability to function that day.
Yesterday we were discussing some of our upcoming tests and it occurred to me that our plan to test all of our children on the same date is not only arbitrary, but a little foolish, especially when the results affect so many aspects of the education process. The test scores in some states are so important that administrators have resorted to lying and cheating in order to improve them. Texas is re-examining some of their testing procedures. Washington, California and other states are debating and protesting the use of standardized tests for a variety of reasons. The scheduling, timing, content, supervision and validity of tests are in question. A major upheaval seems to be on the horizon.
If we know that all of our students aren’t going to perform their best on a random date in April then does that mean we shouldn’t test them? No. Does it mean we can devise a perfect plan for testing our students? No. Perhaps it does mean that we shouldn’t give so much credence to the results of one or two “big tests”, but instead see them as what they are: a very small part of what a student knows and an even smaller portion of what a teacher has taught.