Wednesday, October 21, 2015

the cost of testing...

I went to the Eureka Springs School board meeting last night and listened to reports on school progress from the various school principals.  The main discussion was of our elementary, middle and high school rankings on various standardized tests, comparing our schools' and students' performance with others across the state. One thing the elementary school principal casually mentioned was that standardized tests were administered on 40 days during the school year. Schools in Arkansas are required to offer 178 days of classes, so if you were to do simple math like that expected of a middle school student you would learn that testing interfered with over 22% of instruction time. If 40 days are taken up by testing, how many additional instructional days are also taken away by test preparation? Even if only half as many days were wasted in test prep, how many days were spent teaching to the test? Are you beginning to get the picture?

I have no doubts that our teachers, principals, and school board members want to do what's best for our kids. But their hands are tied. Standardized testing is a juggernaut propelled by an educational industry, and individual teachers, even when they disagree with it, in whole or in part, dare not stand in its way. Here in Arkansas, the state board of education has changed tests 3 times in 4 years. To draw comparisons from one year to the next is not accurate, so to spend so much time testing is a needless distraction from real learning.

Standardized testing and reliance upon it is standard in all 50 states. It is an attempt to industrialize learning. It is not healthy for the child to spend so much time and so many days distracted from real learning. Nor is it healthy for human culture, which thrives upon diversity of ideas and experience. So, while the standardized testing industry rakes in billion dollar profits at tax payer expense, the real cost is what it's doing to students, schools and human culture. Perhaps worst is the illusion that standardized testing measures anything real. There are aspects of mind regarding the retention of facts that lend themselves to being measured in bubble tests, but there are aspects of character that are just as essential to the child's success that do not. To be so focused on test scores is to ignore the development of the whole child.

On the other hand, children left to their own devices learn and reflect. It is a primary aspect of human consciousness. Would it not be best that we put standardized testing aside, give students the tools and inspiration to make beautiful and useful things and allow them to get on with it?

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

1 comment:

  1. Doug,
    You'll find inspiring the teacher profiled in a piece on the Newshour yesterday: .