The children’s book Testing Miss Malarkey makes fun of how adults at school behave around testing time. Whether you like standardized tests or not, they are one way to measure whether children have mastered the academic standards. It is a snapshot in time to give parents, teachers, students, and other stakeholders information about the learning taking place at the school. As an educator, I know this is only one piece of the puzzle we need to consider. What I dislike the most about standardized testing is the foolishness that takes place before the test and the increase of concern about issues that should have already been addressed or recommendations that should be emphasized throughout the year. Below, I have outlined a few of those areas:
Chronically absent students – It always amazes me how administration and teachers can manage to get chronically absent students to school to complete standardized testing, but can’t seem to make the same effort during other parts of the school year. It’s sad because these students aren’t likely to pass the test because they are frequently absent. Unfortunately, it is more important they take the test so the school can reach the minimum number of students required to complete the test instead of whether or not the students will do well on the test.
Standardized bootcamps – These are the days I feel sorry for my colleagues that teach ‘less important subjects’. I don’t think these subjects are less important, but actions in schools speak louder than their words. Many times students who are behind are given intense intervention during the school day, which are called bootcamps in many schools. They are pulled out of science and social studies class to attend. These students may have double reading or double math for the day. The most unfortunate students are the ones who are have to double up in both. Many times only the bubble kids are pulled. To those who are unfamiliar with this education jargon, these are the kids who were close to passing the standardized test the previous year. Schools invest more time and effort in those kids. I guess the kids who are the most unfortunate aren’t the kids who have double reading and/or math; it’s the kids who are left out of the intervention completely because they are too far behind. How effective is this cramming anyways? Does it have long term benefits to the students? I don’t think it does. Can’t we find a better way to ensure students are learning and retaining information instead of making them cram just to pass one test?
Sleep and breakfast – Besides the beginning of a new school year, the next time there is typically a reminder about getting to bed at a decent hour and eating breakfast is around standardized testing time. I have colleagues who keep a cabinet well stocked for hungry students and I also know educators who will rip food away from hungry students. Hunger interferes with learning. We have to be consistent throughout the year about students being fed and we also have to be consistent about students being well rested. I can’t tell you how many times, I have went to observe a classroom and have found at least one sleeping student. When I ask about the student during my debrief with the teacher I observed, many times the teacher will say, “He always falls asleep.” Then, I find out the teacher has not once talked to the student or talked to the student’s parents about the situation, but that same teacher will emphasize being well rested in a weekly newsletter the week before the ‘big test’.
If we want students to take their education serious all year long, then we have to show them that we care about education all year long and not just right before the standardized test.