Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thoughts on Testing

An interesting #vachat led by @philgriffins last night around testing, and what it should look like. Led me to post this. 

photo credit: washingtonpost.com

Let me start by saying that I am not in favor of the current method, or really any method, of high-stakes testing.  Assuming a single snapshot can encapsulate a child's learning, or understanding of content, or their ability to think deeply and critically seems utterly ridiculous to me. Politicians have corrupted the assessment process by tying teacher evaluation, principal and school evaluation scores to these tests. This needs to change if our desire is school improvement and impacting student learning. My opposition to high-stakes testing however, does not mean that I oppose assessment, or accountability.  I actually believe in both, but I think the focus must change and our purpose for testing must change, and the information that we collect and analyze must change.
Educators (and politicians) must move beyond analyzing summative test scores or student achievement in isolation, and consider formative assessments, observations, enrollment data, contact time, demographics, in conjunction with other institutional information in order to make truly informed decisions.  It is also necessary to gather data of specific teacher behaviors that have impacted students. Data about student engagement, desire to learn, and the impact of teacher feedback should be gathered and analyzed. Looking at the interdependence of these allows decision makers to analyze patterns, and ultimately prioritize, problem solve and plan appropriately for action.
We need to be purposeful and attentive in examining all aspects that are likely to contribute to student success.  We must examine our impact on student learning and make our decisions based on the wide range of evidence available to us. We must promote instructional strategies, and share the practices that are yielding the best results. Data driven decision-making is an important aspect of continuous school improvement.  Data provides educators with an overview of strengths and weaknesses in targeted areas. It is necessary therefore, that districts develop a culture of collaboration in which student information is considered essential to improving student achievement and supporting the whole child.  Our focus must always be that children are healthy in mind and body, supported, engaged and challenged.

Final thoughts...Part of the drive for high-stakes testing was supposedly our performance on testing compared to other countries. Do these international rankings really matter? Is this an artificial concern? What is our measure of success as a nation? What should be our measure of a child's success?