Forgive me for being contrary: I know I threw a few friends when I wrote last week we shouldn’t assess projects in PBL (though my full argument was far more nuanced than my headline/thesis), and now I know I take the risk of irking more friends by making the argument which follows.
Among the many caveats to my argument, I’ll prioritize these two:
First, I too am appalled by the misuse and abuse of current or future standardized testing, particularly in regards to punishing schools and teachers. What Bill Ferriter wrote recently on this topic is nothing short of brilliant. “It’s time that you start asking your policymakers some difficult questions about their positions on value-added measures of teacher performance. If Jackson is right, those policies — which have rapidly become the norm instead of the exception in most states in America — are wasting our time AND our money.“
I want quality testing to be used for meaningful purposes: advancing student learning, not teacher-bashing.
Second, these important advances in testing are certainty not the end of the line; they don’t represent a complete arrival at a place of testing excellence. They are instead a significant and meaningful advance from the status quo toward that place of excellence, an advance I think we should applaud. For more on the continued advances needed, see this recent Edweek post and the report from the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education upon which it is commenting.
But here goes: Common Core Assessments PARCC and SBAC (Smarter Balanced) tests shouldn’t be any shorter in their time duration than they are planned to be.
1. Because we shouldn’t be so quick to call this testing time “lost” to teaching and learning. In even only a moderately good testing experience, testing time is learning time– sometimes superior learning time.
2. Because these new tests assess in ways far more authentic and meaningful than any previous generation of standardized K-12 educational tests, and assess the deeper learning our students greatly need to learn to be successful (learning which far too few are indeed learning), assessment information we need to improve their “deeper learning.”
But both of these things will be compromised or lost if the tests get any shorter.
The length of these tests is being hotly debated and combated.
Edweek published last week a short article about the duration of the tests, and it is worth reviewing.
New tests being designed for students in nearly half the states in the country will take eight to 10 hours, depending on grade level, and schools will have a testing window of up to 20 days to administer them, according to guidance released today.
The tweets which followed the Edweek piece were not at all positive: the following tweet is entirely representative of the attitude in the feed of tweets about the Edweek post, although it is not entirely representative of the tone of those tweets, because many were more vulgar.
Let me flesh out my argument:
1. We shouldn’t be so quick to call this testing time “lost” to learning: in even a moderately good quality testing experience, it is quite the opposite.
I don’t believe that time spent taking a good test is “time away from learning.” It doesn’t even have to be a great test– just a good test will do. When I look back at my K-16 education, I am certain that on average, I learned more, was more engaged, more challenged, more interested, more analytical and creative, when I was taking a half-decent test than I was when I was sitting in class watching a teacher talk in the front of the room.
Quite often– though not always– my test-taking times as a student were among the very most intellectually exciting and growth-oriented events and experiences in my education. (more…)