A mashup of all things educational! From technology and social media to leadership and international education, this is where I will be reflecting and applying everything thing I learn from the web and my PLN. Join me on the adventure and add your opinion to the mix!

12 October 2011

3 Standardized Testing: One Small Change?

Today was a pretty yucky day at my school: Standardized Test Day. Here in Chile there are standardized tests that all fourth and eighth grade students must take called the SIMCE.  These tests are like the ones in the USA where the information is used to rank the performance of the schools around the country.  Along with the SIMCE in grade 4 today, our students also took the ISA tests in grades 3 and 5.  These tests help us compare our students with comparable International schools around the world.  In general, it was a pretty test-y day.

As the coordinator organising the administration of the tests, it occurred to me that not one of the students taking the tests really have any idea why they are taking them.  Yes, they know that they are important and that parents and schools put a lot of emphasis on the results, but I really don't think the students ever make the connection that it is THEIR results that we are looking at.  From a student perspective the whole process is so far removed that it is impossible for them to really gain any meaning from the results.  Why? Because we won't know the results of either of the tests until February or March of 2012.  At least 6 months from now.

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So I'm going to ask it... how does this type of testing have any impact on student learning if the results of the tests come so long after they take them?  How many of us have suffered this as students and received a project from a teacher weeks later and brushed off the grade because it was "so long ago?" Or how many of us have handed back an assessment very late as a teacher and thought "well, the students won't care about the grade anyway?" Even though we know it's not good assessment practice, we still do it and we're allowing it to happen on a countrywide level.  Why?

As educators we know the following points are important for successful assessment practices:

  • Assessment should be ongoing
  • Students should receive timely results
  • Results should include feedback for continued improvement

What if we could change it somehow with some small changes?  What if the testing companies, governments and everyone else who really believes in standardized tests listened to the educators giving them for a minute?  What if we couldn't get rid of the standardized tests but could modify the system to support learning?  What would it look like?

Today I wished that I could take all of the tests that I gathered at the end of the day and go to the "scantron machine" and scan all the tests.  I want to buy a scantron machine, put it in my school, rotate teachers through a volunteer schedule of scanning tests, submit the results online to the testing agency (for additional data follow up) and have a print out of immediate results to share with the students by tomorrow. I would be HAPPY to sit there for two hours feeding tests into the machine if it meant that the students could arrive tomorrow knowing their results. Caring about THEIR results.  Wanting to fix and improve their results.

The conversations will happen tomorrow anyway... "What did you put for that question about the rice? Or the questions about that math problem with the train? Or what did you write your story about?" but there won't be any evidence to support what they did.  Nothing for them to look at to compare, to converse, to learn with.  But what if there were results that accompanied those conversations? Imagine how powerful the learning could be with just that one change?

Is it possible? Do you think it could change the way standardized tests are used?  Do you think the students would benefit more?  Do you know anyone who is doing something like this?

Looking forward to your thoughts...
Jessica :)

Photo Source:  Scantron 


Craig said...

I'll start by taking an extreme position to get the conversation going. They are pointless, they offer nothing to a learning environment, and children get absolutely zero benefit from them. They should be thrown out the window and never spoken of again.

jessievaz12 said...

Yes. I do agree on every point that you make above; however, just like in the USA, I cannot escape the tests that I mentioned that we have here in Chile. I hope that some day those in the political arena see what it is that all of us educators already know. Until that time, I am wondering how we can make them work in our favor? Surely there is something we can do to extract meaning out of what seems meaningless to us? If not by getting more instantaneous feedback, then how?

Vanessa Schachter said...

We also have some options of standardized tests in Brazil in the primary years. Useless in my opinion. They are being used to rank schools and create a competition atmosphere amongst them. Last year, my school tried the 'non-official' version of the test. We didn't have government members come to invigilate the exam and take them straight away of our hands, but we got the internet version of it, made our own copies and used them as a 'test moment', but more importantly, as a formative assessment, where teachers gave instant feedback during the following days. It was a much better experience.
On the other hand, what these test are asking our students to do is recall facts, dates and practice very little critical thinking and problem solving skills. As a student I would continue asking why?

the exam (rig

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