Today in my class, The Politics of Reading, at UNC, we went out and asked people what they thought about standardized testing. We have been talking a lot about standardized testing and education policy all semester, and I found it to be really helpful to ask everyday people what they thought of testing, because people have all levels of knowledge on the subject. The thoughts and opinions we gathered were from college students, parents, and single adults. Here are some quotes we received:
“If students are learning properly they are not needed for little ones”
“I think multiple choice is beneficial for students because it helps schools assess how they are doing as teachers”
“Testing is beneficial for those who grade tests. Multiple choice is not beneficial for students because they are putting out wrong answers”
“I think it’s bogus. They need something to test but tests aren’t an adequate measure of assessing student and teacher progress.”
“I agree with it because it gives you a baseline assessment. I like the concept but execution can be kind of off”
“I didn’t know you could opt out. I would have wanted to if I knew.”
And finally, my favorite of the quotes, a woman with a kindergarten-aged daughter immediately said, “I hate it. She is in private school because of it (pointed to daughter)”
Okay, so that’s a lot of quotes, but I had a hard time narrowing them down any further. I found it interesting that one person said that multiple choice tests are beneficial to assess how teachers are doing, yet two other people said that they were not a valid way to assess teachers and students. I also found that the parents we asked were much more opinionated and against standardized testing than anybody else. We even had one college student say that these tests are helpful because they weed out the advanced from the below-average. To this response, my initial thought was that I think that they separate the good test takers from the bad, rather than the advanced from the below-average regarding achievement level.
Ultimately, I found that more people seemed to be against standardized testing than for it. Their reasoning was generally due to the stress they cause among children and multiple choice doesn’t seem like an accurate way to measure knowledge, because the children are not having to think critically about the answers. At the end of our experience asking others, I was not surprised that most people are against or at least questioning standardized testing. Most people we asked seemed to be middle to upper class individuals who were probably aware of the mess going on regarding standardizing testing in our state of North Carolina. With this knowledge, in addition to many people publicly stating their opinions against testing (or at least testing yearly), it makes sense to me that these people would be against it.
So what can we do to assess growth and achievement if we don’t administer these tests at the end of every school year?
One individual said that testing children every four years or so would be better than the yearly stress children currently feel, while another said that testing at the beginning of the year wold make more sense so the teachers knew what they really needed to work on. Another solution would be to trust teachers to pay attention to their students and have them assess while the children are in the classroom learning.
What do you think? What’s the best way to assess growth? Do you agree or disagree with standardized tests, or are you somewhere in between?