5-A-2 Blog for my Class

Is all of this testing good for the kids?

Our state is about to change the standardized test, the ISTEP in favor of the national PAARC test.  PAARC is to be a test that measures student growth and teacher effectiveness.  Our state will now require students in 3rd grade to pass a test called IREAD with failure of this one test meaning the student will repeat 3rd grade.

I remember taking standardized tests when I was a student.  They didn’t seem like a big deal to me at the time.  Now I see my daughter taking standardized tests and crying during that week because of the pressure she feels.  This pressure comes from teacher’s placing such a strong emphasis on students doing well because ultimately their jobs depend on their students doing well on the test.

A recent news article http://www.wthr.com/story/17288525/indiana-students-to-face-new-aptitude-tests talks about under the old ISTEP 70% of students in Indiana passed which means 30% fail.  The new PAARC test is touted to be more rigorous.  Can our students keep performing well under these conditions?  Currently my school also utilizes an Acuity test that predicts what students will do on the ISTEP.  This happens 3 times a year.  Again my daughter will come home crying because she did poorly on a section that the teacher will explain is O.K. because those standards haven’t been covered yet.

Have standardized tests become a way for companies to make money?  I remember my first time I thought that testing companies were a racket was back in college when I had to take the PPST.  I had to pay money to take a test that would tell my college if I was smart enough in English and mathematics to be allowed into the teaching school.  I guess my college didn’t place enough trust in their own math and English departments to evaluate me.   Publishing companies have taken to lobbying politicians and some companies spend over a million dollars in a year lobbying according to the website http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/lobbying.php?ind=B01++ .  Why would a publishing company need to lobby a politician?  It is because there is big money to be made in the contract for the state standardized tests.

Maybe I have become old and cynical in my views on standardized test scores.  I find it interesting that a test graded on a curve (percentiles) would be used to evaluate student achievement and teacher worth.   I can’t help but think that standardized tests are not accomplishing what they were originally meant to accomplish.  Instead of student achievement it is measuring the teacher, the school district, and serving the politicians.

What do you think?  Is it the same across the country?



7 thoughts on “5-A-2 Blog for my Class

  1. I always find it interesting that you don’t know the cut score until after the test is finished and has been scored. Why is this? I always thought it was supposed to be, “Here are the state standards for your grade level. You need to show proficiency in X% of those standards.” That doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s ever changing. If it’s really supposed to be a tool to measure whether or not kids are learning what they’re supposed to, shouldn’t it be that cut and dry? Why does it always seem to be such a big secret?

  2. I grew up in PA. I live and work here now. It’s the same tests all over.

    In second grade, (I’m in my mid 30s) I was made to take standardized tests for our district and the state. I remember taking the tests in May, only because way back then, we didn’t have air conditioning. It was dark in the classroom; because with the lights out, it seemed cooler. Who knows? Anyway, I was daydreaming and didn’t hear the listening section of the test where the teacher reads a passage and we answer questions about the passage. I raised my hand to ask if she could repeat it. She did not. I was mortified. I missed five questions. This was by far the most traumatic thing. Not only did I miss those five, but I also missed the next section because I was so stressed about missing the questions.

    The point of my story is that more often than not, we have no control over what is happening in the students’ minds, at home before the test, and their motivation. These tests create so much angst and fear within students that it is almost a form of torture. Not to mention the havoc it wreaks on our students with autism, throwing off their schedule and balance.

    You are right to mention our jobs depend on it. Our jobs are coming down to making gains. What happens when the student has no more gains to make? They have excelled as far as they can. PVAAS, a Value Added Assessment System in Pennsylvania takes students and moves them from their current level and moves them to the next level, so that if I child is in a low level class, he or she may move to the average level. In this method, the ideal grouping would be homogenous grouping. However, our school has students grouped heterogeneously. Again, the system is working against the initiative.

    Currently we have 3 standardized tests, the 4Sights, the CDTs, and the PSSAs. None of which accurately reflects my teaching or what knowledge and skills my students have gained in the past year. Shameful.


  3. Brad, I can’t get passed the “pass the test or fail 3rd grade” line. I would hope that the state of Indiana has a very good plan in place before they implement that rule. Is the test going to be piloted? What is the reason for the test? I would be very curious to see the reaction from parents, what are they saying about this?

    As a parent myself, I am thinking 2 ways… is the test so easy that only the students who should be retained would fail it, and how can they be sure of that? What are cut-off points and where do they fall in terms of reading level, fluency, comprehension? or is the education department of Indiana really that out of their minds? I just can’t see that being a good idea, no matter how you look at it or who ends up being accountable. One test is an unreliable indicator of performance, how can an entire state not know that?

  4. Man, I cannot imagine changing tests. Is the state changing the testing company or the test itself? Will the standards change?
    With that said, I agree with your notion that these place way too much pressure on students at such a young age. I have heard about students getting sick before the test because of the pressure to perform to the highest standard.
    In PA, we have a recording system that shows students scores title “Teacher’s Success Rate.” Seriously? Kids are not cars on production lines. I often think that if these politicians spend one day or week shadowing a student and/or teacher these days they would quicly change their tune!
    As for testing companies, I am the wrong business!! In my district we have tests for the tests, data from companies telling us who will statistically do well on the test, websites that give you samples of past tests, and websites that give you lessons to teach to the standard ON the test. OVERKILL!!! I started teaching with the onset of our state being piloted so I know no other world, but my senior colleagues tell me that teaching was different, learning was different, and classrooms themselves had a different feel.
    Sadly, NCLB did not consider our consumers…. our children … who will programmed to take a test so they can be “Proficent” (Magic term in PA), but may not be able to think and make decisions on their own in the real world. What kind of kid are we producing America? Other countries must be laughing at us!

  5. I think that philosophy is the same in every state. Blame the teachers if the students don’t pass the test. I think there are many districts now basically teaching to the test and who can blame them. In some states, the politicians have gone after the teachers and really made it hard to just be a teacher and focus on helping the students learn. There are so many that now just put their hands-up and say okay, I will teach to the test becasue my job depends on these kids only knowing what’s on a test that they take every couple of years. Maybe that’s why the US is falling behind all of these other countries in regards to education.

    I do believe that the school district school boards and administrators put too much emphasis on the test scores so they can either get more money or just advertise that their district is in the top whatever percentage in the county or state. We have had so many different tests taken by our students the last three years that we have enough data to fill a cump truck, but we don’t really do anything with it. There has to be some kind of political connection with the state and the companies that offer these types of tests to keep them around. I agree with you that the standardized tests are not accomplishing what they probably were created for.

  6. You mention that this PAARC test not only measures student growth, but teacher effectiveness. Does this tie in to a merit-pay system? Will teachers face professional development to improve strategies or even lose teaching positions because of test results? Based on student performance? Yikes, I’ve seen classes of students with most performing under-average. And I’ve seen classes of students with a high percentage of over-achievers and high performers. My job would tie in to them? Wow.

    Putting the impact on our profession aside, I totally understand your concerns about your daughter and empathize with her tears. When students are emotionally strained due to testing procedures and pressures to perform, the test itself cannot be considered a valid instrument of measure. First, the tests must be deemed reliable and valid, and as you state, it’s questionable when lobbying test publishers are creating them.

    The goal of any testing is to provide feedback. We do it all the time in our classrooms. We create tests, deliver tests, modify tests, trash tests, adapt tests – the cycle is never-ending. It’s the INTERPRETATION of the results and possible consequences that impact children. Is that interpretation valid? Fair? Positive? Meaningful? Give direction?

    Your links are excellent and cast doubt on the entire system of testing groups in the political arena! I see McGraw-Hill and Pearson at the top of the chart…who doesn’t have these textbooks in their district?


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