BY SHARON MARTIN
In my reading classes, I rely on tests. I start most units with a pre-test; I need to know what students already know. I give quizzes and writing assignments throughout the unit to check understanding, and the post-test tells me if something needs to be revisited.
I believe in tests, but I don’t believe that students and teachers should be judged on the results of standardized tests. Neither students nor classrooms are standardized.
If you’ve taken Tests and Measurements you understand that socio-economics alters everything from school funding to test scores.
Poor kids aren’t dumb, and rich kids can fail as dramatically as anyone else. But access to experience, books, learning conditions, nutrition, safe neighborhoods, and even the comfort level of a classroom all make a difference in how well a group of students test.
So, we base future funding on prior funding. Smart? Only if one’s aim is to destroy public education!
The current testing craze is about money. Billboards and television ads tout for-profit schools and our legislators give public school funds to for-profit companies.
There was a time when textbooks were the big private sector profit makers. There are even bigger profits to be made on tests. What if that money were spent on reading specialists, librarians, field trips, and library books that kids want to read?
And then there’s the problem of the tests themselves. What do we really learn from them?
I give my reading students a required two-part reading test each semester. Part one is an 80-word multiple-choice vocabulary test. Either students know the words or they don’t. There are no context clues, only possible synonym choices, but the test gives me a pretty good indication of a student’s vocabulary level … if the student takes the test seriously.
The post-test offers another list of 80 words, but it’s a standardized test so I’m not allowed to teach the words. Yep, the vocabulary post-test tells me nothing I don’t already know. And this is just one of many bad-test stories.
Standardized testing used to take a couple of days, and now it takes a big chunk out of the month of April. That time could be spent teaching, and those millions of testing dollars could be spent on real education.
Hopefully, this testing nonsense will end before it destroys the schools that serve low-income students. Otherwise, current testing policies can take the one best hope that poor children have – their chance for an honest education.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer