Standardized Testing


In the fall of every year, our great state tests its 11th graders in the areas of math and English (specifically, reading and writing).  The spring brings the excitement of social studies and science tests.

While I understand (to a certain, limited extent) the desire for the State (capitalization intentional) to come up with some way of determining that its schools are doing something worthwhile, I resent the fuck out of standardized tests.

For one, these tests don’t really measure anything worthwhile – at least, not in my discipline.  I don’t think that tests, per se, are a good way of gauging how proficient a student is in a language (and, lest we forget, “English” classes are, at their heart, language classes).  I mean, sure; we can test how well a student can spout back vocabulary, whether a student can discern and understand the roots of words (and thereby guess their meaning), and we can test whether a student “gets” a passage of writing by asking her to answer pointed questions about the piece, but I really don’t think that’s where the true nougat-y goodness of language learning is.

To my way of thinking, true proficiency in a language is determined by the skill and facility with which a speaker or a writer can convey rich thought, meaning, and emotion; and, of course, how well they can receive the same through spoken and written words.  While I’ll admit that the tests my kids are taking are astoundingly better than the tests *I* took as a kid,  I have still yet to see a test that does any justice to that goal.

Instead, the tests that my juniors have to take every year (and that my own children take at varying intervals throughout their career as public school students) are more about how well they can decipher the questions that are being asked.  As I prep my juniors for the English portion of their standardized tests, I’m focusing on three main things; how to interpret a question so they know what’s really being asked, how to organize their thinking so they can be sure they’re answering the question they’re really being asked, and how not to panic.

I’ve got three weeks’ worth of prep time with my kids.  We started today, and some of the poor, panicked babies barely got through the practice test I gave them.  I’m going to need every minute of those three weeks; we need to hit these tests out of the park if we hope to renew our charter in two years.



Filed under concerns, failure, frustrations, General Griping, politics, really?!, Teaching, Yikes!

2 responses to “Standardized Testing

  1. I just wonder how Orwell might feel about this; it is a blessing to be at a private school with no worries about this. Texas has an entire industry devoted to this. What takes place here is sad. Schools schedule in instructional days designed to teach students how to perform well on test. This impacts the job of a teacher, and it determines if a school will remain open. The good ole state of Texas for ya.

  2. Liz Weller-Henle

    Good Morning.
    I am working on a project for my education class and I was wondering if I could use your image of the pencil and the word writing in my presentation? Please get back to me if I am able to use this.

    Thank you
    Elizabeth Weller-Henle

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