Standardized test season is upon us here in the US and elsewhere (as if it ever really ends.) Here in my little corner of the world, state graduation exams have already been administered to high school juniors, and 3rd-8th graders are gearing up for their annual week of filling bubbles and writing formulaic responses to questions they’ve been drilled for off and on throughout the year. My kids are just so excited. Really. I mean it.
But what are the effects of the tests? This passionate op-ed by Colorado teacher Don Batt in the Denver Post suggests the one size fits all assessments are killing creativity in our kids and stifling their desire to learn. I’m looking at my own two teens and it’s hard to disagree. Meanwhile, Australian parents of 3rd and 5th year students are shelling out millions for NAPLAN test prep books, the national annual exams that according to a leading teacher’s union rep says “are not designed to be practiced or rehearsed.” Why the spend by parents? Widespread reports of kids so anxious about the test that they were getting physically ill from worry. Not great for developing a child’s love of learning, eh?
Some parents are saying “Enough!”, deciding to opt their kids out of the tests despite pushback.
I know exactly how they feel.
Last year, Wendy and I decided to opt Tucker out of the 7th Grade New Jersey ASK tests, and for the record, he’ll be staying home again this year in a couple of weeks when the 8th grade test is given. We thought long and hard about our decision, and you can read about our reasoning here at a blog post I wrote at the time. While we certainly have concerns over the stress that goes with these tests, our main objection was and still is the use of test scores to evaluate teachers (50% here in New Jersey) and schools. We’re not against assessment or teacher evaluation; far from it. But we are against simple-minded solutions to complex problems. And, to be honest, I have huge questions about the motives of those who are trumpeting reforms of this type.
But here’s the bigger issue, for me at least. Our emphasis on tests is primarily focused on content knowledge and fundamental skills which drastically reduces our time and emphasis on the things our kids really need to succeed in this modern world. Now that information, knowledge and teachers are a few clicks away on the Web, what’s important are those harder to measure qualities that are required of every child, namely creativity, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, self-direction, patience for problem solving and much more. None of that is on the test in any meaningful way. The test, as it’s currently constructed, does not reflect the reality of the learning world right now. And our tacit support for it is harming efforts to change schools in the way they need to be changed.
What can you do?
Opting out is a choice that each parent has. It’s our legal right, regardless of what people tell you. For more information, start at this resource page provided by Fair Test. Please let us know if we can answer any questions or provide more information.
Thanks for reading.