Monday, March 15, 2010

Standardized Testing in Schools

My daughter's school is in the process of administering practice exams to their students who will be taking state achievements tests in May. The idea is both to get them used to the test format and to evaluate how they do. Our state recently implemented new, more rigorous tests and the results so far have been much less than thrilling. I can tell that the administrators and teachers at my daughter's school are concerned.

What can I do as a parent in this situation? What should I do? Because I have a vested interest in seeing our school and our district receive high marks as a result of these tests, I am working with my daughter outside of school to help her prepare. There are sample tests available online, which I have downloaded, and I am now in the process of reviewing them with her.

But, that's not all I will do. Another parent contacted me to discuss the situation at our school (this is elementary by the way, third and fourth grade). We've both looked over the practice test and are concerned that it is designed to be too difficult. The way questions are worded give the impression that the designers are trying to trick students, or at least demand that they know exactly what to look for on the test. This concerns me because now these teachers will spend the next 7 weeks focusing their teaching on how to take this particular test.

So, I plan to be part of a group that asks some serious questions about these tests. I recognize the need to evaluate students, teachers, and schools to ensure that students are being taught what they should. But, there are so many problems with the measurement tools that are being used.

I wonder how parents, teachers, students, and administrators handle these tests in areas where the students excel on them. I really wonder if there is better teaching happening at the school, or do the children come to school better prepared? I live in Mississippi, which has a variety of challenges that make having high achieving students difficult.

I don't have any answers, just lots of concerns and questions. I do what I can to be helpful and I spend a lot of time inside the school buildings. Still I wonder, what's the fix?