As I listened to Alfie Kohn and read from the New Teacher Book, the word “superficial” kept coming to mind. Standardized tests assess students’ abilities to memorize facts but fail to show any depth of understanding that may or may not accompany those facts. They make it impossible to gauge what and how students have learned and understate the process of learning to emphasize disjointed facts.
They make possible the emphasis of one side of the story and make impossible the examining of contradictions between society’s dominant narratives and society’s realities – the listening for voices that are often silenced.
Standardized tests may help students who are good memorizers, schools with affluent families, and students who are members of the dominant social group; however, they will harm students with different ways of knowing, immigrant students, ESL students, students who can think deeply but struggle with memorization, and students who freeze up or become anxious in test situations. Because we have the responsibility to fairly assess ALL our students, I don’t see any reason why standardized testing is a direction we should be heading in. There is so much emphasis on differentiating instruction to accommodate all students, so why aren’t we heading in the direction of differentiating assessment?
Although I am against standardized testing, I believe there are some things we can do if we are in a space governed by accountability, standards, and testing. We can discuss the tests with out students and critique them for their one-sidedness, oversimplification, and cultural biases. We can choose to facilitate deeper learning through reading, discussion, role-play, and writing about topics rather than devoting time to making students better test writers.
What implications could this choice (to facilitate deeper learning rather than “teach to the test”) have on us as teachers and on our school if test results are published? What are your thoughts on standardized testing? What are your thoughts on differentiating assessment?