Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Educate or Test

I have been told at least a dozen times this semester alone--by administrators--that "The Test" should be the primary focus in my classroom.  One went so far as to tell the junior English teachers that their entire course should be structured around the ACT because the juniors take the ACT in March. Surely this isn't what the Kentucky General Assembly had in mind when they decided to make this college entrance exam part of our assessment.

My freshmen are supposed to spend this year preparing for the PLAN test (which they will take in the fall of their sophomore year) and the English II EOC (End of Course) exam.  If they are in Algebra II or Biology, they're also preparing for end of course exams in those classes as well.  And we can't forget about the on-demand writing test taken by all sophomores and juniors.  

Between these tests and practice tests, we lose at least 10 days of instruction--minimum; teachers who give more practice tests in class lose even more.  All of this assessment doesn't include AP (Advanced Placement) testing.

Am I supposed to educate or test?

I recognize that we must have a means to evaluate student learning but these multiple choice tests do not prove understanding. They do not assess higher order thinking.

As one of my 9th graders pointed out today, she can do well on some of these tests just by guessing and applying test strategies. She told me that she doesn't like the written assessments that I make her do.  She cannot fake her way through those.

We are turning out a society of test-takers--not problem solvers.

My students are more than their test scores and my job is to teach think, to create, to analysis, to evaluate and to problem-solve.   My job is to provide knowledge and teach skill, so that my students can be come productive members of society. 

The test is not the most important thing in my classroom; my students are.