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View Diary: Standardized tests take over the school day (58 comments)

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  •  It makes you wonder why (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FlyingToaster, Mostel26

    the Local, Benchmark and State mandated tests aren't all just one test instead of 3 tests? Could it be that they measure 3 different things?

    Now how productive is that?

    Character is what you are in the dark. Emilio Lizardo in Buckaroo Bonzai

    by Temmoku on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 08:21:22 PM PDT

    •  Productive? (8+ / 0-)

      Well, you see, it's plenty productive for the testing corporations, who will have to charge significant fees for their own individual tests.

      Mo' testing, mo' money!

      Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor. - John Dickinson ("1776")

      by banjolele on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 08:26:40 PM PDT

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    •  It's a matter of timing (5+ / 0-)

      The local tests, designed by the schools, precede the Benchmark tests, and are supposed to show which kids will need extra help to pass the Benchmark tests.

      The Benchmark tests, designed by the District, are supposed to show which kids will be struggling with the State tests, in order to get them some extra prep work before the big day.

      The State test, of course, is the culmination of this series, and determines that the school is failing to educate its students.

      Of course, in many cases, only the students on a borderline of getting into a higher category on the test (they are usually graded in "bands": below basic, basic, proficient and advanced) are offered additional attention, as a way to game the tests on a school wide basis. Students who are solidly ensconced in a particular band are left to their own devices.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 09:09:16 PM PDT

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      •  Only count time spent on state manated tests? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Orinoco, FlyingToaster, Temmoku
        The local tests, designed by the schools, precede the Benchmark tests, and are supposed to show which kids will need extra help to pass the Benchmark tests.
        So, this sounds like a local decision. Shouldn't the teachers know (likely from their own evaluation of student performance on routine tests, quizzes, classwork, and homework) which students need extra help and shouldn't such help be provided even if there were no standardized tests? This sounds like the local school boards don't trust the very teachers they hire -- which is alarming. It seems hard to blame NCLB for this.

        I think the fact we didn't see this happening is one reason we ended up with standardized tests for NCLB. The other reason of course being that when the residents of the states send their money to Washington to be redistributed back to the states, obviously Washington needs to make sure it's spent well. We don't let contractors in Idaho build an intestate highway with Federal funds however they want and completely differently than how South Dakota would build their version of the same highway (of course with standardized adjustment for differences in climate etc.). With Federal funding there must be standards - and, frankly, NCLB left way too much up to the states in its first decade. (There is no free lunch -- money nearly always comes with strings -- if you don't see them, you're likely overlooking something).

        The Benchmark tests, designed by the District, are supposed to show which kids will be struggling with the State tests, in order to get them some extra prep work before the big day.
        As above.

        The tests may be poor (actually, I know some of them are by looking at them). But, I think the problem is the tests, not the standardized testing concept for at least math. Sure, if the standardized tests are multiple choice, one needs to spend some time teaching students how to take multiple choice tests (which they will need anyway throughout their college admissions process and during their college curriculum in most cases) - but much of this can be accomplished by some of the pop quizzes being multiple choice. But no matter how you test it:

        • 5/8=15/24
        • The area of a circle is πr2
        • If 8x-4=20 then x equals 3
        • The prime factors of 30 are [5,3,2]
        • The sum of the interior angles of a triangle are always 180°

        As an employer, I would expect a minimum, and predictable, set of skills to be associated with a High School Diploma -- else the Diploma means nothing.

        Anyway, if I recall correctly, no state was forced to participate in NCLB -- if they think the negative educational impacts (such as all these testing hours) outweigh the funds they get from Washington for education, can't they simply tell Washington "thanks, but no thanks, have a nice day"?

        •  You've hit the nail on the head (4+ / 0-)
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          WillR, FlyingToaster, hulagirl, Temmoku
          This sounds like the local school boards don't trust the very teachers they hire -- which is alarming.
          NCLB didn't start demonizing teachers, but it certainly took advantage of it. Perhaps NCLB didn't force states to participate, yet, somehow, all of them did. In fact, the very reasonable arguments you make for standards and testing are the same arguments that proved so persuasive to State governments when they decided to participate and take the Federal money.

          Unfortunately, there were unintended (?) consequences.

          France, for example, has a national curriculum and the Baccalaureate, a very high stakes test for the students involved. One could argue that the whole last year in a Lycee is nothing more than a Bac prep class. But the French educational system does not use Bac passing rates as a cudgel to hammer schools, districts and teachers.

          There is a bait and switch involved in NCLB testing. The scores are reported as "below basic" "basic" "proficient" "advanced" as if there is a certain level of competence required, and any student rising to that level is awarded the appropriate accolade. It would seem that, if the school were doing its job, all students should have at least a "basic" competence in reading and math.

          However, the tests themselves (aside from quality issues) are norm referenced, in other words, half the test takers will score below average, half above. There will always, in this set up, be a certain percentage of students who are "below basic". Since NCLB (or Race to the Top) requires ALL students to be above average, it is logically impossible for schools overall to meet the goal.

          In the run up to all schools "failing" to "educate all students" by this impossible to achieve metric, it may look like some schools are performing better than others, and so the testing regimen may appear to have some value. Through a combination of cheating, forcing out low performing students, focusing on the borderline students, cherry picking and other gaming techniques that have nothing to do with improving the education of actual students, some schools may sink less quickly than others, and thus appear to be successful.

          For French students, having to pass the Bac motivates hard work, study and a focus on the future. For American students, our equivalent high stakes test engenders frustration and a hatred for schooling. As an employer, I doubt you want people working for you to dread anything that might remind them of school... you will, sooner or later, have to do some in-house training, after all. You don't want people who have learned to cram for the test and then forget everything they've learned because the test seems pointless. But, increasingly, that's what you'll be getting unless this odious testing regimen is overthrown.

           

          "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

          by Orinoco on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 05:14:33 AM PDT

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          •  Perhaps there's a state-by-state difference? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Temmoku

            As far as I can tell California, for example, doesn't norm reference the results to generate a specific "curve". Perhaps then this varies state-by-state?

            California does, of course, take steps to calibrate tests from each year to prior years to account for possible differences in difficulty from year-to-year as questions are retired and replaced but that's routine and necessary for all such tests.

            The results from California's Spring 2012 results seem to bear this out.

            For example, 5th Grade Math scores (Table 7.2, Pg 272) indicate that 65% of the test takers exceeded Basic and only 15% failed to achieve at least Basic. However, 11th Grade ELA scores indicate that only 48% of the test takers exceeded Basic and 24% failed to achieve at least Basic. That's some sloppy "norming" if they were doing so.

            Of course, some percentage of students are likely to achieve (Far) Below Basic in one or more subject areas because they didn't know the material well enough.

            In my limited experience with elementary school students (albeit not high achievers), they are not very stressed out by the standardized NCLB related testing. This is mostly because the test results don't obviously and immediately impact them where I live. If the test results were back in two weeks and represented 20% of their course grade or something like that, it would matter a lot more to them. The teachers on the other hand are stressed by them (and, unfortunately, once these test are administered, some teachers seem to care a lot less about teaching the next few weeks before the end of the term).

            As an employer, of course I wouldn't want people who are so turned off by school that they reject training. However, I also wouldn't want to have to give a test to each applicant to make sure that they can quickly determine what adding 3/8 of an inch to 1/4 of an inch yields. I expect the fact they have a HS Diploma to mean I don't have to worry about that and can focus on other things during the hiring process. Obviously if I had to give comprehensive tests during the application process because their HS Diploma meant nothing, if the applicants had no experience with such tests, they would find that very stressful if they hadn't had such testing in school.

            I fail to understand why a "NCLB" test whose results aren't known for months and are not factored into the student's grade is any more stressful than a routine pop quiz that actually counts in their grade (I'm a fan of pop quizzes, in part for the very reason I hated them as an elementary school student - the only way to do well on them was to pay attention and do the "in-class" work as it unfolded rather than goof off and daydream during class).

            At least in the state I live in, the standardized tests in math for elementary school students are very simple - if the material was originally taught and learned, a quick review (which is a good idea anyway to help reinforce concepts an additional time and identify and fill knowledge gaps) should be sufficient. Indeed, the students are expected to have learned this stuff when they advance into more complicated concepts the next year - perhaps at a different school in a different state (which is one reason I support somewhat standardized curricula across the country - we are a mobile population and a student who transfers school districts often has enough difficulties without discovering that they weren't taught what the students at the new school were).

            I believe that the problem isn't the tests -- it's that students are not learning the material they should be learning so teachers end up "teaching to the test" instead of teaching the material. This most definitely is not necessarily the "fault" of teachers. If the parents and the culture the children grew up in don't emphasis, reinforce, and demand a focus on education, there's not much a teacher can do with most students (horse to water and all that). When parents repeatedly blame the teacher because their child doesn't do their homework and the teacher can't send the parent to the principal for a long talk with Child Protective Services present, there's a problem with the system and culture, not the teacher.

            (Yes, I do feel that strongly about education -- I believe it's child abuse for a parent to fail to focus their child on education to the best of their ability and I believe it's a failure of the system if it doesn't demand this, expect this, and provide support for this since obviously not all parents have sufficient education to actually coach their child academically.)

            •  Yes, that "as far as I can tell" (0+ / 0-)

              is a real kicker. It is not a simple matter to discover the make up of the state tests.

              Most people who think of testing to standards imagine some sort of criterion based test: there is some specific body of knowledge, and if a person can demonstrate they have that knowledge, they pass the test. It is possible for everyone who takes a criterion based test to pass it. Think: Scout merit badges or state contractor license tests.

              Norm referenced tests, on the other hand, are designed to spread test takers out along a continuum: if everyone passes a norm referenced test, it is useless. Norm referenced tests try to distinguish between test taker A, B and C. If they all pass, how can you tell who is better, who is best? Think: foot races, where someone who finishes half a second behind third place is an "also ran" or "loser."

              So the fundamental question about high stakes state tests is: "Is this test norm referenced or criterion referenced?"

              And this question is almost impossible to answer without some serious digging into state's educational web sites and tracking down reviews and other information about the tests. Even then, distinguishing the type of test is sometimes a matter of inference, because they rarely, if ever, simply come out and state which type of test they are giving.

              As far as I can tell, California's tests are normed, but the cutoff scores between the various bands are subject to political pressure, so it's very hard to sort out.

              You are right, the kids are not stressed about these tests (most kids, anyway, some do go home in tears or have stomach aches.) it's pretty common to find a few kids in each testing room fill in the score sheet in a cute pattern and spend most of the testing period goofing off or surreptitiously listening to their iPod.  

              But the school as a whole, administrators and teachers, do make a very big deal about the tests, and it really shouldn't be a surprise that the kids think that, once the tests are over, school is done for the year. Teachers who attempt to take their classes back to a regular academic program are faced with a lot of rebellion, and the more successful teachers save high interest cooperative projects for after the tests, to keep student interest up.

              I am not, by the way, trying to say that all is sweetness and light in American education. We do have some significant problems, especially in elementary mathematics instruction. (I had a seventh grader proudly proclaim, "Math isn't ME, and my mom knows it and backs me up!")  

              But flailing around in the brush overlooks the forest: these tests are designed to show parents that schools are failing to educate their children, to demonize teachers and to break teacher unions.

              If we were really serious about overcoming our educational shortcomings, we would do something radical, like make a twenty year teacher training contract with a country who had a functional educational system, like the French, and insist that all our new teachers be trained and spend a four year apprenticeship teaching at a Lycee. The French have overseas Lycees, so the schools could even be in the United States (some already are.)

              "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

              by Orinoco on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 05:15:12 PM PDT

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    •  Why do you have to measure? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FlyingToaster

      Can't the teacher observe student growth? Why waste valuable learning experience over standardized testing that children forget as soon as it's over?

      Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

      by semioticjim on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 10:00:15 PM PDT

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      •  Really - at least in Math and Science? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FlyingToaster

        Do students forget fundamentals because they are tested on it? If they actually know the material, testing shouldn't cause them to forget it.

        I've not seen anything on the State tests in math in my state that isn't something I would expect a student should know at the associated grade level. I do take issue with the wording of some of the questions here and there, but that's just a matter of getting the tests right.

        •  In many cases, they don't know the material (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          scronk, FlyingToaster, WillR, hulagirl

          The kids are taught how to memorize just enough to do good on the test, but no real understanding of the material.

          In most things, this is easier than you think. But it really does show up later, especially in math.

          If you don't understand what's going on with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, you will be completely lost when you get to fractions, decimals, algebra, or any higher math.

          And many kids today are completely lost when they get to those things.

          The other drawback is the lack of creativity and problem solving skills. Lots of kids today can follow directions, but if they get off track somewhere they are totally and completely lost. They don't know how to backtrack, debug, logically work through a problem, or see options other than what's been done before.

        •  Yes...testing causes teaching to the test... (0+ / 0-)

          You place the burden of job security based on high stakes test scores and you bet your bottom dollar teachers will teach to the test, subverting trans disciplinary learning experience in its place. Pure and simple...

          Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

          by semioticjim on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 02:20:23 PM PDT

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