Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Standardized Test?

UPDATE: It's testing week again here in Texas and I thought I'd re-post this from last year:

It's standardized test week at all my kid's schools (maybe even the entire state of Texas).

I just got back from the elementary school and it is full of "Shh! We're Testing" signs.  Facebook is equally full of rants and snarky comments about the general unpleasantness of all things testing.

I haven't got any good hate mail lately, so I thought I'd share a little secret with you:

I think standardized testing is a good idea. 

I don't think it's a perfect system but here are 2 main reasons I approve:

1.  Being a military family we move a lot (6 schools so far) and standardized tests are a good way for me to evaluate and compare schools in an unfamiliar area. 

2.  My child could bring home straight A's all year long, but these tests show me that they actually learned what they were supposed to learn. 

3. I do not have a problem with my kids learning how to take tests. I expect my kids to go to college. They will need to take test to gain admittance and take many more while they are there. (I don't want them spending an inordinate amount of time on this).

Of course, I think far too much time and money is wasted on these things.  Here's how I would improve things:

Expense: Normally, I am against big federal government, but I think it would make more sense to develop one standardized test each year instead of 50 different ones. 

Time: My kids will each endure 2 solid days of testing-which is simply too long.  I think there should be 30-60 minute tests in each of the following areas: reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. They could even do one a day for a week.

Fairness: I think most states have allowances for kid's with special needs or learning disabilities, but if not, they should. 

Relevance: Tests should be given the last week or so of school. There's still 2 months of school left. 

Pressure: These tests are not testing our kids.  They are testing the schools. I tell my kids to do their best, but their performance on tests will have no impact whatsoever on their future lives.  In my kid's school they are not used for promotion, and I do not believe that tests like these should ever be used as the sole reason to hold a kid back a grade.

Rant away blogland and tell me that I'm wrong.


  1. Oh dear, here I go. I'm a teacher who used to teach in Texas. Unfortunately, the standardized tests don't tell you much about the quality of the schools, but more about the families who attend the schools. I now work in a very wealthy area with educated parents who place value on education and spend money to enrich their children's lives outside of school. Our scores are at the top of the state. Yet our curriculum is the same across the district and our teachers are no better or worse than teachers in schools who don't have the same demographic.
    Also, in my experience with teaching in Texas, I found that an inordinate amount of time was spent on teaching to the test and not teaching to the core. Research has shown that the these tests often don't even test the core curriculum and ask questions that do not fit the developmental levels of the students. Sometimes the tests are more a feat of endurance rather than knowledge. Testing with brief standards based assessments and grading throughout the year is a better way to go.
    I agree with you that they should be brief and at the end of the year. I also agree that there is so much money wasted on testing. I don't know if your kids test with paper or computer, but think of the cost of printing all those tests!
    As to fairness, there are many ways to accommodate for kids with special needs.
    This is not hate mail. Besides, I love your blog too much. This is simply my opinion based on my experiences.

  2. All good points. As I said, I don't think the current tests are anywhere close to ideal and need some work, I am just always surprised how opposed people are to any form of standardized test. I think they should gather up some moms, teachers, and common sense and make a test that works. I like your idea of having smaller tests throughout the year.

    I forgot to mention that my favorite part of test week is that the HS cancelled all before school practices. Yippee!

  3. I like think the idea of testing (making sure kids are learning core material, keeping schools accountable etc.), I just think the way they are currently doing it stinks. I have a son with ADHD, but he's not severe enough to get help with test. It is a tough couple of days for him to focus for that long. I like the idea of shorter tests through the year too. :)

    1. My oldest came home yesterday and said "aghhhhh-I am still so bored-all the boredom won't leave my body".

  4. I agree with you that standardized tests can be good. And, yeah, there definitely needs to be some reassessing of the hows and whats of the standardized tests. I remember taking them when I was in school and they were way too easy for the majority of my class.

  5. no hate mail here
    but i'm not a fan of standardized anything
    let alone tests

    in addition to the reasons
    in the first comment
    i also believe that ST mainly test
    how well a student takes a test

    there are many kids
    who understand and can show off
    what they've learned verbally'
    or by writing a paper
    or doing a project

    but give them a question with 4 possible answers
    and they shut down

    my best friend
    and sister are long time teachers
    who hate STing

    they spend so much time
    teaching to the tests
    and then getting penalized
    if and when some students do poorly

    my friend teaches in a low-income
    city district
    and her scores are terrible
    even though she is a very good teacher

    i am not a one-size-fits-all
    kinda mum
    and i just think it is a shame
    to judge every child by one standard

    just my thoughts!


    1. I agree with you that no child should be taught or parented in any sort of standardized way. I am also opposed to standardized test that could cause a kid to be held back or that factor into their grade. I view these tests as one way (not the only) to evaluate teachers more than my kids.

  6. My daughters school just finished up their standardized testing. They actually broke it up over the course of one week, so they were only taking small sections each day. She goes to a private school so they be allowed this. I do think standardized test are needed but need to be adjusted, agree with all above comments. Actually standardized tests were how I learned that my daughter had a learning disability. The first test they took in 2nd grade measured what their ability should be and then they took a second test of how they actually performed. The variance btwn her scores were what allowed us to see she was much smarter then she was performing. My daughter is allowed accommodations now due to her learning disability but we actually discussed it ahead of time and she opted out of using them. The test is a measure of what they know (I know some people are bad test takers and may know more but can't perform under pressure) and she wanted to see if she knew all the material. I took all the pressure off her saying, "you could fail this whole test and there is nothing they can do about it, no one is going to hold you back or punish you" I changed her attitude about the "test" and called it a challenge. It was still a long week but she seemed chipper each day about telling me how hard she worked and thought she did very well.

    1. So many kids struggle and I think you handled your daughter's perfectly. Learning test taking skills and strategies will be a big benefit to here. My 39-year-old husband had to take one last night:)

  7. I am in favor of the standardized testing for the reasons you mentioned. My kids go to a small school in New Mexico. It is not in a wealthy area at all and the school is one of the tops in the state. The tests are spread out over 2 weeks. The kids take the tests Tues - Thurs. with different subjects. They are given snack breaks and play breaks. Throughout the year, the material taught are all things that could be found on the test, but the test is not taught. There is a lot of undue pressure put on school districts and teachers which trickles down to the kids. While the tests are important at our school, the kids are simply told to do their best.

  8. I am not against standardized tests, and like you think they are a way to see if the school is doing it's job. What I don't like is teaching to the test. Yes, the kids need to know how the test works, but they don't need to spend weeks on practice tests.

    Marti, former Texas public school teacher, mother of former Texas public school students, and home school teacher.

    1. I couldn't imagine having to spend weeks "practicing" for the test. Luckily my kids have never had to do that.

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