Monday, January 9, 2012

Standardized testing Zombies re-animating in classrooms near you!

This past Sunday was spent gloriously tabulating data from a standardized testing pre-test, to see where gaps might exist in the year's instruction thus far. Zombie mode all day... random chick flicks on in the background, a bag of pretzels at my elbow, and a pile of raw data of incorrect answers to compile and analyze.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love data. Organize it... categorize it... process it... use the sum function in excel going down the column... use the sum function in excel going across the row... and look for patterns. That goes along also with my INFJ personality. As does the need to psychoanalyze what I'm doing as I'm doing it. And then to word vomit all over my blog to process it through my writing. Which isn't even that good.

Now that many standardized tests are computerized, the results are quickly available and students are able to take the test multiple times during the year. So how should this knowledge affect instruction? Or should it not affect anything at all? Most teachers I know like to "cover their butts", so to speak, and do a week or two of review before state tests, to refresh students on the concepts. But if the test is being offered multiple times, is that reviewing necessary? Do you do it again before the second round? 

 Based on the "gap data collection" accumulated on Sunday, I anticipate that I need to review and/or introduce roughly 3-4 new concepts each week for the next 5 weeks in order to "hit all the state standards" before the test. BUT WHY IS THIS NECESSARY? Should students realistically have mastered the entire year of goals that the state means us to teach during 7th grade, not even two thirds of the way through the year? Shouldn't an early test, compared to a later test, show a growth trend?

While pondering all this, I stumbled upon the below article by Alfie Kohn, that was published way back in 2000. It is amazing how true it remains today. Maybe truer. It's not long and is really worth the read.

I've read other works by Kohn and not really agreed with a lot of it (like his theory on Punishment vs. Rewards), but this article could have been written yesterday. I am not sure how I feel about that. Time to ponder the implications...