Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Testing, Assessment, Accountability, Oh My!

Testing, assessment, accountability, oh my!

Testing, assessment, accountability, oh my! (Hey it's a big year for the "Wizard of Oz", I had to go there.)

I don't know how things are in your local schools but in mine, we are now required to assess students in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies at the beginning, middle and end-of-the year, as well as unit tests, performance assessments, and formative assessment.  In short, we are testing students almost every single week of the year on at least one skill set or content area.

This sounds like accountability and data collection at its best.  The only problem, the testing takes up the very valuable and limited instructional time.  Schools have definitive times and calendars.  Unlike a corporate position where they ask for you to do more and the lucky (read this facetiously) employees get to work additional hours, schools have a dismissal bell that rings at the same time daily.  The buses collect students and they are gone.  Even if I, as a teacher, decided to stay and work late, there is no one there to teach.  I missed my chance.

Does this mean we should stop testing or assessments?  Of course not!  What I am suggesting is balance.

Let's put it in a way all can understand.  You get a scale and weigh a 10 pound bag of seed.  It weighs, 10 pounds.  The next day, you weigh the bag again.  What does it weigh?  10 pounds.  If you weigh it each day, it will weigh 10 pounds and then, over time, it may weigh less as the seeds begin to fall apart and become dust from drying out in the process of sitting on a scale daily.

However, if you weigh the 10 pound bag of seed the first day and then, maybe you plant some in dirt, water them, feed them, nurture them, and then after this love, attention, and focused devotion to helping them become their best, you reap their fruit and seeds and weigh them again, how much will it weigh?  10 pounds?  No way!  It will weigh 10 times 10, or maybe even more.

You see, it is through planting seeds of knowledge, nurturing inquiry, and giving love attention and focus to the students that the results change, not by placing them on a scale.

So I say to all legislators and policy-makers, please, consider the process of learning as well as the measurement.

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