I am on a big education kick right now.
Many people argue that the purpose of testing is to provide feedback to educators, parents, and the community on where our students are at. I fear that too often testing is used as a tool to measure our students, and not as an indicator of understanding. As a student, a test was the ending, the exclamation mark, it most often meant that we were finished with that unit or class. It was not a opportunity to fine tune, to explore the material that was unclear. If I did poorly on a test, there were few chances to learn that material. In most standardized testing you don't even know which answers you got wrong. You are left in a state of ignorance, not knowing which fact you contain that may be incorrect. The blame was often placed on me as a student for not preparing for the test and memorizing the correct information. The test meant that the learning was finished. And for someone with a great short term memory, a test meant that I no longer needed to hold the information. I do not have the burden of testing children, but I am responsible for evaluating my college students and assigning grades. In all of my classes, regardless of whether a test is given, from toddlers through adults, the mentality of being the best, being first, being right, and doing it the right way is prevalent. I believe that testing (along many other things) stresses this mentality. To me, that mentality is socially alienating, does not foster collaboration, creativity, openness, experimenting, or risk taking. I have a class of 2nd and 3rd graders who just finished their standardized testing for the year. They shared with me what percentile they scored in. Why must one student fail to give another student confidence? Why are we constantly comparing one kid to another. A line from the book The Help plays over and over in my head when I work with these girls: "“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I fear that testing is doing more harm than good.
Furthermore, testing is one sided. As a teacher, I feel that it is crucial to receive feedback on every aspect of learning. Perhaps feedback isn't even the right word. I want my students to feel that they have stock in their learning. That what they think and feel matters. I believe that for real learning to take place students must be allowed to take ownership in their education. I am striving to find the right questions to ask in my classes to let my students know that I care, and that I welcome their suggestions. I believe that these questions are different depending on the age group and class dynamics. I believe that this mindset can create a deep sense of respect in the classroom.
I know that there are many valid arguments for testing, such as accountability and the need for assessment and evaluation. But right now I am having trouble seeing the value in many forms of testing.