It’s testing season here in the overly-large school district as both the tech (the state says we have to give all tests online) and the kids are being prepped for their high stakes exercises in minimal learning. For the next six weeks or so, don’t expect to find much instruction happening in most of our classrooms. It’s all about passing the SOLs.*
However, lately I’ve been stumbling across a string of articles talking about a “testing backlash”, both by school districts and individual parents, about states being granted waivers from the stifling perfection demands of NCLB,Â and how we’re moving into a “post testing” period of American education.
It would be nice if all of that was actually happening, but I wonder if schools, districts, administrators and many teachers are going to be able to give up the testing culture they’ve become so accustomed to over the past decade or more. Is the allure of data – concrete, easily collected, quantifiable numbers – too much to abandon?
Let’s face it, in many ways following the test prep script is much easier than pacing instruction based on the kids who arrive in your class each day. Test scores go into nice neat tables and averages of them fit better into newspaper headlines and two-minute news stories than other, more accurate forms of assessment.
Part of my doubt also stems from the amount of time, money, and focus our district has poured into a “curriculum assessment resource tool”, essentially a big database of questions forming a year-round standardized test prep system. With this in place, most of our schools have been taking away many additional days of instructional time during the rest of the year for collecting more of that data.
So, I come back to the question of whether, if NCLB disappeared tomorrow and teachers were allowed more flexibility in their assessment, schools could break the addiction of the testing culture. I’m sure the best teachers would have no problem, and probably already find ways around the testing drills mandated by many principals.
Just some rambling, speculative questions, maybe ones that are too pessimistic.
*Virginia’s standardized tests are called the Standards of Learning tests. No, the irony of the acronym is not lost on any of us.
Update: One more parent opting their child out of standardized testing.