State Tests, MAP Tests, AIMSWeb, Oh My! Are We Testing Too Much?
Carl Rogers, a famous American Psychologist once said:
"I believe that the testing of the student's achievements in order to see if he meets some criterion held by the teacher, is directly contrary to the implications of therapy for significant learning."
Ben Franklin said this on testing: "I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong"
Most teachers say...
But, without tests...
- How do we know what kids know?
- How can we measure what kids have learned?
- How can we compare schools in an objective way?
- How can we objectively see if teachers are helping students learn?
Keeping these questions in mind, let's look at the main reasons that we test children in America:
1. To compare schools: State tests like the ISAT test fall under this category. Many dislike these tests because the results do not drive individual child instruction. However, these tests hold schools accountable to parents and the community. State tests also help the national government compare states and determine who needs improvement. This is one of the reasons that the Common Core is so important: it will allow more accurate comparison across states.
2. To compare kids to each other: Standardized tests fall under this category. Standardized tests include many psychological and academic assessments, which may be used for identifying students who are gifted or who have learning disabilities. The primary purpose of standardized tests is to create a gateway to services - both for intervention and enrichment. Providing "extra" for students who fall below or above average is part of the culture of American schools. Comparison tests help us determine who is "gifted" and who is "learning disabled."
3. To compare kids to themselves: These tests assess growth of the individual child. Tests like AIMSWeb, DIBELS, MAP, and the Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment are some examples. When used properly, these tests can drive instructional groups and measure individual student progress. Benchmark assessments ensure that kids are learning over time. When students do not demonstrate progress, these assessments also tell us when we need to change our intervention.
4. To assess student need: Curriculum based tests, or good old-fashioned pre-tests, can determine what students already know, and what they don't know and need to know.
At SL3, we believe that learning does require testing. You test what kids know, you teach them, and then you test to see if they have learned. It's also important to hold schools and teachers accountable in some objective way, at least in part.