“I’m so glad testing is over, now I can get back to teaching my students!”
Most teachers have said some variation of this every time they have to give and/or prepare for a standardized test. Some school districts spend as much as 10% of their school year giving standardized tests to their students. Potentially, up to 18 days of students’ 180 day school year are spent sitting at their desks with a pencil, bubbling in their answers on multiple choice tests. But this is just time spent testing, it does not take into consideration the class time taken to prepare for each standardized test. The pressure on students, teachers and schools to perform well on standardized tests is intense; students can be permanently labeled as high or low achievers, teachers with low scoring classes can lose their tenure or merit pay, and low performing schools can lose state funding. With the stakes so high, teachers spend several days or even weeks preparing students for these tests. Time spent preparing for a standardized test is vastly different than time spent teaching.
Proponents of Common Core tell us that these standardized tests will help inform our instruction, but that fact is it takes several weeks or months to get the results from the standardized tests. By the time the tests are scored and returned teachers are not able to use this information to help the children who took the tests. Sure we get data, but do these tests tell us what the students really know? Some students are naturally good test takers and some are not. Performance on one day does not determine what a child knows. Furthermore, the limited scope of knowledge assessed on these tests does not provide us with a clear understanding of the whole child – one test does not fit all. We need more authentic ways to assess children of multiple intelligences and assessments that have real world application.
Is it worth losing instructional time to prepare for and give standardized tests or would students benefit more if this time was used to gain knowledge and learn critical thinking skills that will help prepare them for the real world? The government spends well over a billion dollars on standardized tests and with Common Core being implemented across the nation, this number is sure to rise. Do children benefit from the money spent on standardized testing as much as they would if this amount of money was spent elsewhere? Students did not benefit from NCLB and unfortunately Common Core does not look much different at this point. Time will tell, but perhaps if the money earmarked for education was used for educational resources that teachers deem necessary, or for hiring more teachers that are highly qualified, class sizes can be reduced and teachers can spend more time developing differentiated curricula that will challenge each of their students at their individual instructional levels, and spend less time managing large class sizes and preparing for standardized tests.