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Testing, Testing, 123, Testing | Teeny Manolo

Testing, Testing, 123, Testing

This month marks the time when all schools in my state conduct the STAR test.  It’s a standardized test designed, supposedly, to measure the success of what is being taught in the classroom.

I am of two conflicting minds about standardized tests.

First, as a parent, I am anxious to know that my child knows the stuff he is supposed to know, you know? 

Yet another part of me whispers that standardized tests are a bunch of baloney and waaaay too much importance is placed upon them.  Honestly, there are some children who are quite smart, but aren’t good test-takers and there is no way to account for that.  My husband, who has a mild form of dyslexia, would have been one of those children.

Then another part of me thinks that there has to be some way to measure children across the state and the country, and the only way to do that is with a standardized test.

Then the anarchist in me says that they want to use the tests to decide too much about the strength of the teachers and the school when really there are variables like children who sleep in a room with seven other people, or who don’t eat breakfast in the morning, or whose mom and dad got in a fight the night before, and how would you like your paycheck to depend solely upon the performance of the employees under you? 

Sigh.

But, we reported to the testing site bright and early this morning, and will continue to do so for the rest of the week.

As an aside, I left my son in the main waiting room, thinking that he would follow the example of all the other students who were going to the classroom.

As I’m driving by to go back home, through the window I see him sitting on a chair in said waiting room, reading a book.  All the other kids? Gone.

So I have to swing all the way back around the parking lot, leave the Munchkinette in the car by herself (I swear God, I was only gone for thirty seconds, don’t report me to child services!), literally run into the waiting room and tell my absent minded son to get his butt in the classroom, and run back.

Sigh.

8 Responses to “Testing, Testing, 123, Testing”

  1. class factotum May 6, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    how would you like your paycheck to depend solely upon the performance of the employees under you?

    If my job was to ensure the performance of those under me, then I guess it would seem fair. :)

    • Glinda May 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

      I suppose I should have clarified that your paycheck was mostly dependent upon a one-time test given to your adult employees, who ostensibly are mature enough to make sure they eat a good breakfast/get enough sleep or whatever other variables would help them perform well.

      These are kids we are talking about.

      What if a kid decides he doesn’t give two figs about how he does on the test? More of them do this than you would think.

      Is it really fair to judge teachers on how their students, of whom they have minimal control, perform on a test?

  2. marvel May 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Hey Glinda,
    I too am of mixed minds regarding standardized testing — on the one hand, it does seem like there ought to be a way of ensuring our kids are learning what they need to in schools. And honestly, I wouldn’t go to a lawyer who couldn’t pass the bar, and I wouldn’t go to a doctor who couldn’t pass the boards (standardized tests, all). On the other hand, I think standardized test scores are often misapplied — there is a difference between testing for basic knowledge everyone should know, and “achievement” testing, in which you really want to separate out those who can become particle physicists and those who would really prefer to fix your cars for you, both of which are good and necessary and useful to society.

    I find this statement amusing though: “how would you like your paycheck to depend solely upon the performance of the employees under you?” Don’t most of us, to some extent? Certainly a great deal of what I do–and my ability to keep my job–is directly dependent on my ability to ensure my employees and others I supervise or interact with are performing at an appropriate level. Anyone above an entry level job would have the same issue (managing a store, a restaurant, a plumbing business, anything).

    One would think we would have the capacity to fire non-performers (whereas teachers can’t fire students), but not always. Also, I guess I do have the option of just doing the work myself, if a supervisee/employee isn’t, whereas the teacher can’t take the test for the student. So there’s another difference.

    We could always just test the teachers! :)

  3. Glinda May 6, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    But this is also assuming the employees under you care about keeping their jobs.

    You cannot say the same thing about a student.

    Maybe I should just chalk it up to a bad analogy, but my point was it is unfair to judge anyone on a one-time occurence.

    Let’s say your job evaluation was chosen at random by your boss, and you were only evaluated on your performance for that that one day.

    Does that seem fair to you?

    • marvel May 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

      I’m quite sure every encounter with my boss — even those moments when he randomly pops by my office without warning, or I happen to see him by the elevator — is an interview for my job. I’m quite sure that I could completely “blow it” on an one-off, random occasion. Perhaps it’s not fair, but it’s the way it is in the job I have chosen. It’s my choice, so I deal.

      If we’re talking about fairness, why is it fair for inner city children to be stuck in horrendous school situations? Why is it fair for a burned out teacher with seniority to be kept, when the younger, energetic, better teachers are let go when money is tight? Why is it fair for kids who can’t read and don’t know basic math to be socially promoted along, without anyone caring whether or not they’ll be competent to hold a job at McDonald’s if/when they graduate? If the issue is unfairness, there’s a lot of unfairness to go around.

      That said, our educational system is badly dysfunctional, and if I had to “blame” anyone or anything, it would be a societal expectation that every child is capable of AND needs essentially the same basic education. It makes no sense to squeeze all children–with so many different talents, ambitions, abilities and desires–through an antiquated educational theory designed in the late 1800’s to promote the creation of good factory workers. But as long as everyone thinks that every child should go to college, this is where we are.

      And to clarify: I absolutely think that every teenager should have the chance/opportunity to attend college. I think it’s ridiculous to think that everyone must do so to lead a happy and productive life. But that’s a rant for another day.

  4. Glinda May 9, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    To be honest, I don’t think that you can really equate situations with adults and children in the same way.

    My teacher friends liken it to having your IRS child tax credit dependent upon whether your child passes a test.

    Good grief, the unfairness of the scenarios you describe is practically mind-boggling. No, it IS mind-boggling.

    Agreed upon the badly dysfunctional school system, which is why I took my kid out.

    Also agreed that college is definitely not appropriate for every person.

    So see, we agree on more than we disagree! 😉

    • marvel May 9, 2011 at 10:08 am #

      Oh yes, I think we agree more than disagree. But I dislike the whining about the unfairness of testing. There has to be some way of holding schools/teachers/administrators accountable for the quality of education provided. If people don’t like testing the kids, that’s fine, but propose a better solution. I was only half-joking about testing the teacher! :)

      (I used to tutor middle-schoolers at a school in an impoverished area of a major US city. I wasn’t too surprised at the pitiful skills of the students we were tutoring, because of their backgrounds, needs, etc. I was horrified to see the worksheets that the teacher had pinned to the bulletin board as the “perfect,” “100-score,” “excellent” work of the class, as the punctuation was wretched, half the words were misspelled, and I seriously think my 3rd-grade class exhibited more literacy than the 6th graders whose work was posted. Either 1) this was seriously the best anyone in the school could do, which was horrifying, 2) the teacher didn’t know any better, which was horrifying or 3) some nightmarish educational theory was in play, in which praising the students’ work was more important that ensuring they learn and follow basic rules of grammar and spelling, which might be fine for their “self-esteem” but would guarantee them a lifetime of low-level employment–also horrifying. Really, you don’t do kids any favors by not telling them when they’ve made mistakes.)

  5. J May 9, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    I dislike standardized testing, and I dislike that some schools are getting rid of subjects that aren’t tested, in order to ensure that the subjects that ARE tested get the focus. I dislike that if we, as parents, choose to protest and keep our kids home, the school can suffer financially (esp if it is a small school).

    This comes from the provision in NCLB that says that schools MUST improve every year, until they get to 100%. Statistically impossible, and thus designed to fail. So the more years in we are, the more schools can be considered failing, even though they’re doing as well as they were 5 years ago, when they were considered proficient or above. There’s no way you’re going to get to 100%, unless you are able to pick and choose your students, and as you said, control what kind of day they’ve had as well. That means getting rid of kids who don’t excel at Math. Get rid of kids who don’t speak English as their primary language. Get rid of kids who are developmentally disabled. All of it sucks.