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!