Friday, October 12, 2012

New Year, New Tests

At the end of the 2011-12 school year, I expressed my displeasure with the three-week test-taking marathon students endured in my school district. Now I’m going to kick off the 2012-13 school year by griping about a fresh crop of tests that reach a new level of ridiculous:

Pre-tests – These tests are administered at the beginning of the school year to assess a student’s knowledge about a subject before the student takes the course in the subject. Apparently, the scores on these tests compared with the scores on the year-end tests are supposed to gauge the teacher’s success. I’m astonished that this seriously flawed plan was implemented because it offers nothing but disruption and frustration at a critical juncture in the school year. Testing a student on a subject before the student learns the material is pointless. In addition, standardized tests are not a valid measure of a student’s skills or knowledge, so they are certainly not a valid indicator of a teacher’s performance.  

Field Tests – These are pilot tests that student guinea pigs are forced to take to help education officials and testing companies determine which questions are appropriate for the actual test. These tests are an egregious waste of the student’s valuable time.

Art Tests - A standardized, multiple-choice test in art is counterintuitive. Art is about creativity and self-expression, not conformity. An artist’s skills cannot be evaluated by a written test. It’s debatable whether an artist’s skills can be evaluated at all, since art is highly subjective.

Physical Education Tests – A written test in physical education is also counterintuitive. Physical education is by definition physical. Students should be engaging in physical activity and benefiting from exercise in this class, not sitting and taking a test. To determine whether a student has learned the skills involved in a game or sport, or understands the rules, ask them to participate in the activity, not take a test about it.

Standardized tests divert time and money from meaningful educational activities, and they are not a valid measure of a student’s knowledge or skills. Yet education officials continue to think up new ways to impose them on our teachers, students and schools.

What’s next – a test about lunch?

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