Testing at a Crossroads?

Testing at a Crossroads? Last month, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle made headlines by collectively refusing to administer the Measure of Academic Progress exam, a computerized adaptive test that many districts use to gauge students' progress over the course of the year. Some observers defended benchmarking tests like MAP as valuable tools to help educators identify students' learning needs. But others pointed to the Garfield protest as evidence of a rising tide of skepticism toward the role that testing has come to play in schools.

What's your view as a teacher? Are data from progress-monitoring assessments and other standardized exams helpful in determining instructional gaps and student growth? Does the emphasis on testing detract from student learning, as the Garfield teachers have contended? Did the Garfield teachers take the right approach in publicly boycotting the exam? What hopes and concerns do you have about the role of assessment in schools in the next five to 10 years, particularly with regard to the Common Core State Standards?

Rebecca Schmidt I teach 4th grade in a school that uses an innovative and effective residency model to train new teachers. I have a resident working in my classroom this year, on his way to becoming a skillful and knowledgeable D.C. Public Schools teacher in August. I do my best to teach him best teaching practices that I've learned over the past few years. Most of the time, these best practices have to do with pedagogy, or teaching strategies. But sometimes we tackle more macro topics. Today we were planning our next math unit about measurement when he asked ...

Ryan Kinser "This push on tests ... is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human." —Dominic Randolph, quoted in Paul Tough's How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character I recently finished reading How Children Succeed in a book club with my fellow Roundtabler Sarah Henchey. Now, on the eve of my state's writing assessment, I worry about my students' collective stress and individual grit. I have no doubt these kids will shine on the essay. But how will tests like the FCAT Writes affect the type of success Randolph...

Elizabeth Duffey The work of Smarter Balanced is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help students succeed—regardless of disability, language or subgroup. Smarter Balanced involves experienced educators, researchers, state and local policymakers, and community groups working together in a transparent and consensus-driven process. —From the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium website. SBAC is one of two consortia writing the assessments that will measure progress on the Common Core State Standards beginning in the Spring of 2015. The mission statement gives me hope about the...

Sarah Henchey "As teacher leaders, how would we answer the question, 'What recommendations do you have for policymakers regarding testing?'" During our first round of posts, Ali Crowley posed the above question. The question both encourages us to synthesize our recommendations and to proactively put them forth. To end the cyclical pattern of standardized testing, it's time to insert our voices, share our experiences, and advocate for change. With this in mind, I believe there are a few key take-aways from this dialogue: • Work alongside of teacher leaders. Policymakers and those entrusted with creating and mandating standardized tests must ...

Alison Crowley As teachers have voiced in this forum, policies surrounding the number of assessments and the quality of assessments being used in schools need a serious makeover. In a recent article NEA Today, Colorado teacher Jessica Keigan is quote as saying, "The best model for setting and implementing policy is one where those who spend the most time in direct contact with students have the most say." Now that we have begun the conversations in this forum, what can we do as teachers to influence change? A few years ago, my district mandated that high school students take the ...

Garfield High School has taken neither a safe nor a moderate position concerning the MAP test. To the contrary, the MAP test is the hill they choose to die on.

It's early in the second semester, and my language arts students have read exactly zero books. We've momentarily cut down on our debates, trimmed class-building activities, and minimized student-centered projects. We're paying less attention to current events and intriguing articles or websites. There's little time to explore timeless themes of the human condition through literature and even less autonomy to do it.

"Your teacher's goal is simple--to help you reach yours." I use this motto, displayed on a poster in my classroom, to frame my thinking when it comes to educational issues--and the role of standardized testing is no exception.

"[Teachers]accept the idea of accountability but believe it has been pushed too far and is being used in a counterproductive way that narrows education and unfairly burdens schools serving very poorly prepared students without requiring any changes in conditions that make some schools profoundly unequal."

As a teacher in my sixth year in Washington, D.C., and therefore someone who has administered hundreds of days of tests, I can empathize with the Seattle teachers who decided to boycott MAP testing.

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