Standardized Testing – The Dementors of Education

Jul 13, 2008

Posted by Doris

Before you read this, I want to make sure I say that the opinions in this blog are mine, and they don’t reflect the views of Leaky. So, basically, if you want to yell at someone, please aim it at me!

I have enlisted a dear friend, Kadi, (Darth Kadar herself) to help me discuss standardized testing from her point of view as an elementary teacher and as a teacher of children who have special needs. This week you’ll see my blog entry, from the views of a teacher in secondary school who teaches students who are high achievers or gifted and talented, in a few days I’ll put up Kadi’s guest blog. We’d also love to hear your thoughts so please take the time to respond, or if you feel like adding a blog of your own, please feel free to send it on to me. [email protected]

Standardized Testing – The Dementors of Education
Curious title for a blog, isn’t it? But for anyone who has taught in the days of “Standardized Testing” you know exactly what I mean. Learning should be fun, it should be joyful, it should be an experience of discovery and self-realization, not some soul-sucking horror.

Today, this is not the case. Long ago, a group of educators designed the model for Kindergarten as children who, like flowers, were planted deeply in academia, and their roots were allowed to grow and flourish. Each child able to develop their strengths on a time-table that suited their maturity level. This is the goal of education, to open doors for children, to prepare them for a future filled with possibilities, and to allow them to discover the world around them, their place in it, and their path through it.

Why did we choose to get away from this?

In my opinion, today in the United States we use focus on standards based education to the point of exclusion of our higher performing students.

If you look at this study on High Acheiving Students in the era of NCLB from the Thomas B Forman Institute you’ll see the researchers found

“the performance
of top students was languid”

The problem with standardized testing as I see it, is you focus on those students who might pass, or students whose skill levels are just barely passing to assure they succeed. Where does this leave our highest achievers? It leaves them wanting out. The high achieving students who should focus on problem solving and creativity are forced to sit through lessons assuring that minimal skills are drilled often enough for those students who might not pass.

“Faced with a powerful incentive to boost the test scores of
students on the borderline of proficiency””bubble kids’ as
they are sometimes termed”schools might be expected to
focus resources on that point in the achievement distribution
and neglect the extreme upper and/or lower ends”

There was a time when we taught kids to take something apart, discover it, feel how it works, learn how to mold it into something new, and figure out how this will make your world better. What happens to our world if we take that away? What happens to our future if we stop our brightest students from “wondering” in the classroom?

Can someone please pass out the chocolate?

Don’t forget to purchase tickets to the LeakyCon “Dance the Night away” at Terminus. You can read about it here here, but the tickets are going fast, and you don’t want to miss the hottest party in Chicago!

10 Responses to Standardized Testing – The Dementors of Education

Avatar Image says:

Doris, you make a GREAT point when you say: “The high achieving students who should focus on problem solving and creativity are forced to sit through lessons assuring that minimal skills are drilled often enough for those students who might not pass.”

I believe you are correct in saying this, provided we are talking about Elementary-grade or possibly middle-grade students. The reason I say this is because often many schools offer “accelerated” programming classes such as A.P. (Advanced Placement) or I.B. (International Baccalaureate) courses. This provides an opportunity for kids to go above the standard curriculum at a pace better suited for the top students.

However, I found myself through Elementary school learning the basics over and over again. Multiplication tables, reading tests, etc were no problem for me, but there was no way to go ‘ahead’ of the classroom, such as I can now in High School or Middle School. As a result, specifically in fifth grade, I was left to read books. Quite literally, I did that in almost all my free time, reading over 150 chapter books over the course of the year, and becoming the best A.R. student in the school. That was because the other students, who I do not blame, had to be taught the basics- leaving the smarter ones behind, as you say. And if I didn’t have a love for books, what would I have learned that year? Not much! It would have been me, sitting in a classroom, bored out of my mind, not listening, and learning nothing.

Great blog

Avatar Image says:

That is a good point Jeff, though more and more districts are allowing students to take AP courses without the prerequisites they needed in the past. The more this happens, the more you’ll see AP classes having to slow down for students who took classes they probably should not have.

There are always students who choose not to take AP classes. For my son, it was so hard for him to keep up with the AP courses, and keep his average up and play sports. He had to because of his scholarship. For the kids who choose to take regular academic courses, they were bored.

Thanks -

Avatar Image says:

That is a fair, fair point, Doris. I have seen people who skipped into AP classes without taking the tests most of the others took to get into them, and so it is true that even AP classes may be slowed down.

Avatar Image says:

Ain’t it the truth! :P

Avatar Image says:

Good description of what is happening in our classrooms. Can’t wait to see the follow up blog.

Avatar Image says:

We don’t have the NCLB here, but I hear about it. These tests we do have, and it’s wrong. Glad to see someone talking about it.

Avatar Image says:

Your banner makes me hungry. I hate those tests, they are boring. Now that I’m a student-teacher I’d like to see them go away so we can really teach.

Avatar Image says:

Thanks for the comments everyone. Kadi’s blog will really talk about the younger student’s, you’ll see that in a few days. It will make you think so Kevin make sure you keep checking back. I’ll put it up late Monday or early Tuesday.

Sasha, lucky you! Just make sure you keep doing what’s best for your students. It takes teachers speaking out more, we need to be more proactive, and do so loudly!

Caroline, that cake is a chocolate coffee cake, and it makes me hungry too! Glad to hear our student-teachers are passionate enough about our student’s futures to be thinking about this subject!

Look forward to hearing more from you guys!


Avatar Image says:

Nice site – never been here before. Great post, and so many people feel the way you do. You are right, let’s keep talking about this and make people listen.

Avatar Image says:

Melinda, Glad you found the site and enjoy it! There is much more here then just this one little blog, so bookmark and come back and do some cyber-pokin!

You are correct, we need to keep talking. We can’t let someone who has not been in a class for decades make these decisions for us.

Write a Reply or Comment

Finding Hogwarts

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.