I read my colleagues' posts this week with great interest. We all seem to have a couple things in common: There is a lot of testing in our schools; and, while too much testing results in a drain on both students and teachers, it does play an important role in education. I side with Jon when he writes, "One of the most frustrating aspects of high-stakes assessment is that it goes contrary to what the research suggests we should be doing in education. We know that we should be focusing on teaching skills, not facts, and that we should be doing it by engaging students in activities and projects that have real-world value (and therefore high degrees of engagement)." Amen, brother. Yet, look at how little time most classrooms devote to truly engaging projects and activities ... and how much time is devoted to "taking" tests. Frustrating, indeed.
As a firm believer in frequent checks for learning, I agree with Linda Darling-Hammond's Education Week blog post: "...No single test can support the rich learning experiences schools need to create or supply the diagnostic information that teachers need to have to be effective with students" (2015). Regular formative assessment is essential; continuous question-asking and observing and analysis of student learning is a must; the use of digital tools that provide students with immediate feedback and offer teachers minute-by-minute updates on students' progress are goldmines. The fact that Alaskan teacher will wait until next fall to receive information on how their students did on this spring's AMP tests is absolutely crazy. True, in future years we will have the results in a more timely manner, but even still...is the data we gain from the high-stakes standardized tests more valuable than what we might gain from careful work with smart tools in the classroom each day? Nope. But it's hard to standardize creativity, so the likelihood of assessments changing much in a country that values standardized "accountability" is quite likely a dream.
Darling-Hammond, L. (18 Feb 2015). The Role of Testing to Support Deeper Learning. Education Week. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2015/02/the_role_of_testing_to_support_deeper_learning.html_