Thursday, April 21, 2011

Everything I Need To Know I Didn’t Learn During Test Prep

Monday was the first day back to school after spring break. It was also the first day of an entire month (that’s right, 4 whole weeks) of test prep. The STAR, which is California’s standardized test, will begin at our school on May 16 (6 whole weeks before school lets out mind you).


Since the government has yet to come up with a better way to assess our students, the kids (and teachers) are subjected to standardized testing. Even worse we are subjected to standardize test PRACTICE, endearingly known as teaching to the test.

My school site, having a very large English language learner AND socio-economically disadvantaged population, has perfected this art of teaching to the test. For most of the year, we do a pretty good job of actually instilling knowledge in our students, while at the same time teaching the test. I’m ok with that. We are often told, “If they (the students) really know it, the test doesn’t need to be taught.” That might be true for our older kids, but for a 7 year old, not so much. Choosing from multiple choice answers that try to trick students, coloring INSIDE the bubbles, completing a test in 45 minutes without talking or asking for help, and really just caring about a test like this is really hard for elementary school kids. So again, I’m ok with showing students how to navigate tricky testing formats, increasing their test taking stamina, and motivating them to care about this test.

What I do have a hard time with is stopping instruction (for the most part) a few weeks before the test to take PRACTICE tests. Today will be our fourth day of prep, and I’m already sick of it. We have implemented games and prizes and other fun things to motivate the kids so they don’t get too bored, but what about me? I’m BORED! Yesterday I left school feeling that if I have to do this one more day I’m going to lose my ever loving mind.

I will spare you my rant about the value, or lack there of, of standardized testing. I do understand the need to make sure our kids are meeting standards and that the teachers are doing their job. But there are SO many factors in student learning, number one being that not every child is standardized. So why do they need to take a test that is. Teachers (good ones anyways) assess there students in a million different ways throughout the year. Very few of these assessments are multiple choice tests. In addition, we observe our students, we talk to them, we let them share their thoughts and their work. I guarantee you that most of us can tell you how a student will do on a test before they even take it based on what we do in class everyday.

Until the powers that be realize this, we are saddled with the STAR test and the prep that goes with it. I will continue to do it everyday (even though I secretly want to just forget about it and see what happens), but I’m not going to like it. In fact, it makes me want to jump out of my classroom’s 2nd story window!



  1. I have yet to meet a teacher who feels that the standardized test prep is a worthwhile component of class time.

  2. I know JUST what you are saying.
    : ( I hate the test.

  3. Just what sort of vocab does a seven year old have that would require a choice between FOUR possible answers. Surely if the little tyke can read one it's enough.
    And anyway what's with teaching kids the gray areas of 'almost totally wrong' and 'almost correct' at any age below fifteen. It leads to the concept of almost pregnant.

  4. I really don't understand the purpose of the standardized test. I think it's ridiculous to stop teaching in order to practice for that test.

  5. It's not even true for the older kids. The way these questions are worded it seems like the intention is to confuse or trick the kids. But for the little guys it's even harder. I hate this time of year!

  6. I really think that good teachers don't need standardized tests to prove that they are doing a good job and that the bad teachers will just "teach for the test" and squeak by. Standardized tests are joke and a waste of time. Sorry you have to put up with them!

  7. Mmmmmm hmmmmmm. Thank you for writing my yearly testing rant for me.

    Funny how last night at teacher tribute good test scores were not mentioned ONCE as an attribute of an outstanding teacher.

    It's like the whole world knows how ridiculous it all is, but somehow we are all still controlled by it and forced to do it.

  8. What's wrong with just teaching the kids. It's almost like they don't have enough faith in their educators to do their job! ugh! Let's play dodge ball

  9. @ Becky - I'm sure Kaish HATES it. So much pressure for all of us which is why we feel like we have to do it, but it is not worthwhile in the least and in face takes away from true education.

    @Vince - Right!?!?! Ridiculous to think that the little ones' educational future should be based on a test like this. Almost pregnant...ha ha ha I love it!

  10. @Jason - I know I felt like I was channeling you when I wrote this. I've never felt this way so early in April cram time. I guess it's the 11 year itch!

    @Grandma J - Trust the educators? You silly woman! Why would they trust us We are just greedy, part time workers, who have caused the national financial crisis! But, we are allowed to babysit their kids for most of their awake hours.

  11. I'm sorry and not in a standardized sort of way.

  12. STAR tests...that's why I stay in kindergarten! But 100 years ago when I first started teaching they actually gave the test to kinders...imagine that torture!

    "Fill in the bubble by captial A"