High Stakes Testing: It’s Broke, yet We keep doing It

There is an old adage, “If it is broke, don’t fix it.”  Unfortunately, education in America is broke, yet we aren’t fixing it.

Extensive research has reached the conclusion that high stakes testing is a net negative and does not aid in student achievement.  

I have had the fortune of discussing testing with numerous public school educators.  They share these sentiments.  I often hear how they would love to focus on learning and the curriculum rather than teach in an environment of high stakes testing.

I feel for those educators.  Ultimately, we all want the same thing.  We all want our students to succeed.  

The following was published by NCTE and gives a summary of the research that has been accomplished regarding high stakes testing.  I have found it as a good resource in talking with other educators, parents, and policy makers on education reform.

•Afflerbach, P. (2005). High stakes testing and reading assessment: National reading conference policy brief. Journal of Literacy Research, 37(2), 151-162.

This reading brief describes the liabilities associated with high-stakes testing, including lack of research supporting a link between testing with reading achievement.EndFragment.

•Amrein, A.L. & Berliner, D.C. (2003). The effects of high-stakes testing on student motivation and learning. Educational Leadership, 60(5), 32- 38.

Research suggests that high-stakes testing creates less intrinsic student motivation and alienates students from self-directed learning. Topics include how high-stakes testing has impacted the rate of high school dropouts and student retention.

 

•Huempfner, L. (2004).  Can one size fit all?  The imperfect assumptions of parallel achievement tests for bilingual students.  Bilingual Research Journal, 28, 379-399.

This article focuses on some of the faulty assumptions that are made in the development of large-scale assessments for Spanish-speaking English language learners and argues that new measures need to be taken to assure that these tests reflect the best interests of the populations to whom they are administered.

•Neill, M. (2003). The dangers of testing. Educational Leadership. 60(5), 43-46.

The author suggests that high-stakes testing often impedes higher-level learning and skilled teaching because of the one-sided focus on test results. Data reveals that standardized testing has not led to an improvement in academic achievement.
•Triplett, C. (2005). Third through Sixth Graders’ Perceptions of High-Stakes Testing. Journal of Literacy Research 37(2), 237-260.

This study examined attitudes towards high-stakes testing by asking 225 elementary students to draw a picture and write a description that reflected their recent testing experiences.  Results indicate students’ negativity toward and anxiety concerning high-stakes tests.

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Are You Reaching for the Sky in Your Classroom?

Teacher and students b/w

I often tell my teachers that it is never too late in the school year to change something.  While there are a few major items, like curriculum, that deserve our full attention during the summer months, most aspects of classroom instruction can be changed at any time throughout the school year.

If something is not working, why would we continue with mediocrity just because there are a only a few months of school left?  That makes no sense.  Teachers should continually be striving for the best, even with limited time remaining.

So how do we continue reaching for the sky in our classrooms and attain the most out of the few time we have left remaining with our students?

Make sure we are setting and sharing learning goals

Are we giving our students goals for the instruction that they are being taught?  What is the point of this test?  What is the plan for this project?  How are we going to get to this end result?  It is important that we stay on task.  Are we holding ourselves and our students to task by articulating our learning goals for each new unit?

Continual Assessment 

I don’t mean drill and kill worksheets.  With so many months of school in the preverbal bag, we must ensure that we are continually changing up our assessment strategies.  Yes, at many levels tests are crucial to reinforce study skills, habits, and memorization skills.  However, are we also offering other varied avenues for assessment?  Skits, class videos, music videos, clay sculptures, real life math projects, group presentations, are all types of assessments that we can use to invigorate our classroom.  The list is endless, our creativity and drive are the only barriers.

Passion

Have you lost your passion in these winter months?  If students see teachers who are going through the motions, won’t they emulate the same?  How are you keeping your lessons engaging?  This is the time of year to put in that extra effort to make sure your lessons remain interesting and mentally challenging for your students.   If they see that passion and enthusiasm in your presentation, that same attitude is all the more likely to transpose into their work.

Relationships

Win their hearts, gain their minds.  I can’t write about achievement in the classroom without concluding with relationships.  Teaching, our calling, is all about relationships.  When students know we care, they care.  It is all the more important, as the school year closes, to make sure we are building those relationships with our students.  This is crucial with students whom are struggling.  This is the time of year in which they prefer to just throw in the towel.  That is if they know their teacher doesn’t care.  Students who struggle, strive for that relationship.  While many teachers may see that student as a student who doesn’t care or is lazy, the teacher who cares sees that student as another soul.  We never give up on a soul.  We never give up on a student.  Build those relationships, show your students that you care not only about teaching but about them.

So have you set that bar high?  Are you reaching for the sky?  If not, there is time to change.  Don’t wait.  Make that change, in your classroom, in yourself, and in your heart, now.