Monday, July 30, 2012

Test Taking is Still Just Test Taking

It won't surprise anyone who reads CTW that I have issues with standardized testing. I believe that we have by extolling multiple choice testing as the summum bonum of academic accountability is an education system that forces teachers to become excellent test facilitators and students to become excellent test takers.

Of course mine is not the only point of view. Phil Montgomery, founding advisory chairman of Educate Texas at the Communities Foundation of Texas, offers an opposing view in this op-ed.

"The controversy about the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR exams, has become mired in myths and falsehoods about the role of assessments in our education system. This rhetoric has led some prominent state leaders to begin the shortsighted call for a rollback of our current — and nationally recognized — assessment and accountability system. Such a move would be counterproductive for children and a tremendous step backward for Texas."

"Assessment has been, and will continue to be, a fundamental component of our educational system. We always need to understand what parts of our public schools are succeeding and what parts need additional support and resources. Parents, teachers and administrators in every school district need to know how well in the aggregate, and individually, students are learning so they can make adjustments based on that data. Coupled with improved data systems, these assessments provide the tools for teachers to better differentiate instruction and provide extra support to struggling learners."

"As our economy changes, we are seeing first-hand the need for better educated students. The current unemployment rate for high school dropouts is 12.6 percent, while the rate drops to 7.5 percent for those with at least some level of postsecondary attainment."

"These numbers re-emphasize why the Texas Legislature ordered a new assessment system focused on college and career readiness. Opponents charge that it is unrealistic to expect all students to meet this standard. But as a national and global economic force, Texas cannot afford to allow our students the option of being neither college-ready nor career-ready. In 1973, only 28 percent of jobs required some form of postsecondary education. By 2018, we expect that number to reach 63 percent. Our current postsecondary-degree attainment rate projects that we will fall short of that mark by 3 million graduates."

"Our current system rights the wrongs of previous decades during which low-income students were pushed into low-skill, low-income tracks and not given the opportunity to achieve more and reach their full potential."

Montgomery's apologetic negates the fact that more and more we're learning that this system we've constructed isn't working. Which doesn't mean that the tests aren't giving proving what the tests are designed to prove. It means that a preponderance of class time is consumed preparing for tests taking, tutoring for tests results, teaching for tests results and of course, taking the tests. It means our children will ultimately learn how to pass the STAAR test - and any other test put in front of them, by any other acronym - but they won't be educated.

I've checked, and without exception, no employer I know is looking for someone to fill in multiple choice bubbles. They are looking for critical thinkers, people who can work well with others, people who have self-discipline, who read with comprehension, know math and/or science.

That's not what we're doing. We're teaching children to take tests and we're trying to make ourselves feel good about it.

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