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butters_pre_school_iconLast week in the Student Blogging Challenge, one of the suggested activities related to the fact that in much of the world, April and May are the months where students are bombarded with so much testing.

It’s a touchy and stressful subject for many for sure.

So we thought it would be fun if in the next few days, we can encourage anyone out there with a blog to sound off and share thoughts about standardized testing and accountability. The interesting thing here will be to learn about how individual states, countries, and areas of the world handle it differently.

A few things to consider:

Are test scores tied to teacher pay? Should they be?

Do scores determine if students are moved on from one grade to the next?

Is there a better way to do it all?

Just my 2 cents…

I started out teaching secondary math in the state where No Child Left Behind was essentially born and tested before it went national: Texas.

In my first years of teaching, I’m not going to lie, I hated it all! I felt I was only teaching so my students would pass a test, I wasn’t able to effectively enrich and challenge my stronger students, and it just created such a negative atmosphere.

Then, I spent a year teaching at a school in Mexico. We had no standards, no tests, no accountability. Sounds like a dream, right?

But it wasn’t at all. Living in Mexico was a dream (it was a bit safer at the time), and the students were incredible to work with – it was just there was so much inefficiency in the school.

I found myself over the course of the year fighting with others to align our curriculum, develop assessments that we could use from year to year, and essentially bringing in much of what I thought I hated before! 

When I returned to Texas, I definitely appreciated it all much more.

So what do you think?

Leave a comment with a link to any post you write and use the hashtag #ebshare to let us know about it that way.

Not up for a post, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments too! 🙂

About Ronnie Burt

Manages the Edublogs, CampusPress, and WPMU DEV Hosting services. Former secondary math teacher and wannabe musician. Follow @ronnieburt on twitter!

16 Comments

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  1. Great post! I definitely think that we have to look at our education system for both the good and the bad. Although this might be a little controversial, I think that possibly having an outisde vendor come in to assess each schools curriculum would help tremendously.

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  3. Your article set me thinking this morning and I thought I’d write down a comment. 6 hours later I’d written an entire blog post!

    http://iwoods2807.blogspot.com/2011/05/standardised-testing-anachronism-imho.html

    Hope it’s not too turgid. I really think there is a need for this. I see so many students disheartened by previous poor grades becuase they are rushed through a curriculum meant to support them as they prepare for a career, but unfortunately doesn’t allow them to progress at a reasonable pace.
    More success and less failure, no matter the time involved!

  4. I do believe that standardized testing does serve a role in the education system but I do not think that it should be given the high priority and emphasis that it is given. as mentioned, standardized tests can serve as a valuable tool to assess students on a much larger level than a single classroom but to hold teachers, schools, and school systems effectively hostage to set standards does not seem to really do anyone any good.

    Beyond holding the test standards to such a high level of importance one of my big issues with standardized testing in Maryland is the timing. I have over a month of school left but only just over a week to essentially finish 19 weeks of course information in 15 weeks. There is no way that I can efficiently cover the material to an adequate degree for my students. It is very hard to meet the needs of my students as a teacher and also meet the demands of the state and school system.

    • I here that! In Texas our students had three “chances” to pass our test before the end of the year, so we gave the first one in early March. So by day 100 or so I had to finish 180 days worth of material – and then review it all again for 80. 🙁

      • Wow, that is very early. Our middle and elementary school assessments are sometime in March. Thankfully at the high school level we have a little more time than that to cover our material. We still have just around a month of school left though after our assessments. Our students only have one opportunity at the test per term though.

  5. There was an article in today’s SMH about the American experience with standardised testing, and I drew on it and this post to write a post of my own on the subject.

    http://www.readwritelearnwell.com/1/post/2011/05/tis-the-season-for-standardised-testing-fa-la-la-la-la-la.html

    I’m not against testing, as such, but I am concerned about how easy it can be to take out of context one day’s results, and try and use these to determine the quality of a child’s education. Seems crazy to me….

    Carla

  6. “In my first years of teaching, I’m not going to lie, I hated it all! I felt I was only teaching so my students would pass a test, I wasn’t able to effectively enrich and challenge my stronger students, and it just created such a negative atmosphere.”
    Its seem u are a trully good teacher…

    • Enjoyed your post! Your comments about how scores are used (especially for humiliation) really struck a chord with me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Ronnie! When you flaunt scores of low performing schools in the newspapers, it’s humiliating. When you tell parents they can choice their kids out of your school to a “better” (meaning higher test scores)school, it’s humiliating!

  7. @Harold and @Michelle – I like that quote a lot too and don’t think I’ve ever heard it before.

    @Ellen – It’s good to hear from someone still there in the trenches! We had a state test for classes taught in Spanish at the lower grades, but nothing for high school or classes taught in English. Interesting perspective you have!

  8. I very much agree with Harold and am glad for the reminder about Einstein’s quote. Standardised tests are useful as a way of checking teacher assessments of their students and to help measure improvement over time. They become a problem when they are high stakes and are used to make judgements about schools and teachers. We know that one test on one day may not give us an accurate picture of where a student is at. We know that some students simply don’t do well in tests and we know that when it is high stakes people may look for dishonest ways to get better results.

  9. Hello Ronnie, Since you last taught in Mexico, a sort of standardized testing has been put into effect at the primary and secondary Mexican educational levels, called Enlaces. Although accountability and and its ramifications have not yet been put into place, Mexico has developed this nation-wide exam which is being used in most states as a beginning diagnostic.

    I say diagnostic in ‘most’ states because in some states the teachers’ union has refused to apply them in the public schools, as a result only the private schools apply the exams supplying tainted results in these states.

    Also, as far as I know at the secondary level, educational standards and competencies are being applied in public and private schools in my state, which happens to be one of the states which does not want to apply the exams….so I would venture to say that teachers in Mexico are watching the process of NCLB in the US and do not want to be held accountable until they ‘fix’ themselves. Since the teachers’ union in <Mexico is the biggest in all of Latinamerica and very strong, they sometimes influence many educational outcomes in <mexico…and not always for the better.

    And that is why standardized testing can have a positive effect…it gives us a standard to measure our effectiveness. In the area of EFL in Mexico at the tertiary level, we use international standardized exams (TOEFL or Cambridge Main Suite,, depending on the stduents' goals in private and public universities) to measure student progress and proficiency. However, we in Mexico look with trepidation to see what accountability measures are being taken in the US, and we wonder… Ellen in Mexico.

  10. I think there is a place for diagnostic and even some low stakes placement testing, but the whole emphasis on being driven by data, just isn’t helping our students be better students.

    I think that the Quote by Albert Einstein pretty much sums up my feelings on high stakes standardized testing:

    “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

    Says a great deal while using very few words.

    Harold

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