Blogs » Learning in Freedom » Growing Dependence on Inferior Assessment (rant)

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Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. -Roger Lewin

John Taylor Gatto observed that short answer tests were dumbing our students down. Short answer tests require a student to respond with one expected answer with no creativity, elaboration, or explanation. How much more inferior is the type of test where a student is expected, not to give a short answer, but to select an answer from a list of statements? He was talking about tests given to students in the classroom, but state mandated tests are short answer tests and our dependence on them has grown.

Dependence on inferior assessment has not only increased, but has been accused of driving the educational process. Some people believe that what started out as a way to increase accountability has become a "perversion of its original intent." Diane Ravitch describes testing as "the monster that ate American education."

While in college to become a teacher I had the opportunity to observe various classrooms. I witnessed teachers who started out their school day with a TAKS question of the day. It didn't feel natural, but it seemed harmless. I would rather start out my school day with a Greek or Latin root of the week, instead of a practice test question.

A few years later, when my oldest son tried out public school, I was disappointed that his homework included a stack of papers filled with TAKS practice questions. I think that meaningless homework is a form of educational abuse. To top it off, he was taken out of his favorite class, Computer, to attend TAKS tutorials because he hadn't performed well on one of his practice tests. I have heard that in some districts there are now practice tests for the practice tests.

Homeschooled students are not required by law to take these state mandated tests. My son had zero test preparation when he took a TAKS test for placement. I had the option of showing his grades, but I admitted that we had used a very informal approach to learning here in my home. He aced the test going in, so WHY after spending almost a year in public school did he need test remediation? My only guess is that he developed a type of test anxiety while attending public school. It's been proven that anxiety and stress work against memory and learning and can negatively affect a student's performance on these tests.

While educational funding has decreased, a billion dollar testing industry has flourished as schools have become compared to testing centers. There is a group who is protesting the cuts by boycotting the tests. Do a search for "Texas Parents opt Out of State Tests" on the web. There is also a Facebook page where parents AND TEACHERS are discussing taking their children out of school during the tests. It's not just a movement in Texas, it's happening in many states.

You may not agree with the opt out movement, but it is interesting to me.