I feel that complaining about standardized testing has jumped the shark. Like so many other good ideas whose time has passed, complaints about testing are starting to make teachers look bad. So I think we should stop.

Let’s face it. Testing’s not going away. If we haven’t figured that out by now, there’s something wrong with us. So isn’t it time to stop talking about how useless they are and how they’re an impediment to true learning? What if all the time spent bashing them and the never-been-in-a-classroom politicians who force them upon us was spent thinking of ways to improve teaching and learning within the confines of an imperfect system?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as troubled by testing as any other sane, rational educator. In fact, on this very blog, we’ve ranted about how much time testing takes up, and I stand by that. Our stance is that a one-size-fits-all, multiple choice, high stakes assessment can never accurately measure what students “know.” And it certainly can’t be used to measure teacher effectiveness.

But, again, I don’t foresee their extinction any time soon. Those who mandate testing aren’t going to magically start listening to teachers after all these years of ignoring us. So I feel that as educators “trapped” within a flawed system, it makes more sense to focus our energies on things we CAN control. What we can control is the teaching and learning that goes on in our classrooms. You CAN teach standards in an engaging way. You can unleash all your creativity and passion to inspire your students AND cover state or national standards. It can be done.

So, to sum up: tests….bad. Good teaching…good. And complaining about standardized testing…it’s time for a different approach. Our students deserve no less.

photo credit: Fort Worth Squatch via photopin cc 

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  • HoneyFernSchool

    I agree, except if we stop bringing it up it seems as if we agree.

  • Ben (@engaginged)

    Thanks for your comment, HoneyFernSchool. I just think it’s time to change the conversation. By now, everyone knows educators don’t agree. I hope!

    -Ben

    • HoneyFernSchool

      One would think, but I am not so sure. Our ed system is getting so adult-centered that I don’t know if it is even possible for the adults to listen. Just read an interesting article this morning from Diane Ravitch about all of the things Finland does right, and standardized testing doesn’t show up as a major factor ever, and doesn’t appear until the end of high school. The US is still heading in the worng direction with the CCS, so it would appear that all arguments are falling on deaf ears.

      Here’s the article (in case you didn’t see it yet): http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/mar/08/schools-we-can-envy/#edreform

  • http://twitter.com/FriedTechnology Amy Mayer

    While I take your point about futile gritching to each other, not complaining all this time is part of what has gotten my state, Texas, soon to be renamed “Tested”, into the enormous mess in which we now find ourselves: 45 days a year of a new state standardized test and less funding than we needed ten years ago. On the contrary, I think educators should complain a LOT MORE and MUCH LOUDER; however, not to each other, to legislators and State Board members.

    • Anonymous

      Amy, you make a great point. Thanks for sharing it with us. I don’t want at all to sound like I’m opposed to peaceful, yet loud, resistance and protest. I’m all for it. Where we are, teachers turn out by the thousands to protest changes to pensions or unions, but I don’t see anyone organizing to protest testing or anything that directly impacts kids. Interesting.

      • http://twitter.com/FriedTechnology Amy Mayer

        I agree! I like your take and wish more educators would really be thoughtful about how what we say and do impacts our own and our students’ futures. Most of the complaining that’s done is entirely internal and thus completely unproductive. In my area, most teachers just do as they’re told (then complain only to each other). That’s a BIG problem.

        • Anonymous

          You can’t make a font big enough for the word BIG there. It’s a problem everywhere. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and thanks again for commenting. -Ben

  • http://twitter.com/dphillips51 David Phillips

    OK. So we are education professionals. The tests are mostly minimum standards. Everyone who wants to teach to the minimum raise your hand. Nobody? So then how do we include the material have to test for and then go ahead and teach to the maximum? Of course, we will review before the test for all that minimum stuff, but if our students can comprehend the complicated, then the simple should be pretty easy.

    I now teach senior English, but when I was teaching juniors–the exit test–I didn’t spend much time writing for TAKS. I did teach my students to be solid writers in a variety of formats by doing LOTS of writing. My students, even main-streamed SPED kids, did very well. Passing was 100% or very close. And most of my students were poor, rural red-necks.

    I hear teachers complain a lot: about students’ lack of desire to learn, about a lack of parental and administrative support, about how much grading we have to do, about how things are different now than they were years ago. We need to quit griping and just teach to the highest standard possible–and then challenge our students to rise beyond that.

    I don’t like the standardized tests either. I think we spend way too many days testing and not enough days teaching. But I’m going to use those precious minutes I have students in the classroom, every one of them, and I’m always going to find ways to teach my students to a higher standard this year than I did last year. NO EXCUSES!