I hate testing not standards
Where the hell have you been?
Pardon my language, but I do want to ask this to those of you who are vehement about how bad lots of testing is and how horrible high stakes tests are. I have hated all the testing and the Big Test for twenty years now. Where were all of you? Why didn’t you ever join me? This testing mania has been around for decades and now suddenly you figure out that it’s bad for kids? And why do you blame it on Common Core?
A little history. We have had high stakes testing for about twenty years now. I was teaching when Colorado adopted the Big Test, the Colorado Student Assessment Program. The governor at the time was sure education would improve if we had a Big Test For All To Take. I was outspoken at the time that the test was unnecessary and bad for students. The governor and a congressman who was a big supporter of the test were persuaded to take the 11th grade test. The governor refused to have his test scored; the congressman said he hoped his test would be shredded. I was livid and I wrote a guest column for the paper: how valid is the test if very successful people can fail it? It must measure something that doesn’t matter in life. And what a waste of time and money! This was 15 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
My district purchased test prep packets and we were supposed to go through them for the month leading to the Big Test. Students and teachers got seriously stressed at CSAP time. I felt the packets were not the best use of instructional time and, in defiance, never used them. (My students test scores were as high or higher than my peers who used the packet in fear of the big test.) This started 15 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
I had my son opt out of the Big Test. I felt it wasted a week of his life, had no instructional value, and told teachers nothing about him that they didn’t already know. This was 10 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
My district added MAP testing two times a year, DRA testing two times a year, and a district-created writing assessment four times a year. I gave the first writing assessment and realized that it had no instructional value so I never gave it again. I was prepared to use the “asking forgiveness is easier than asking permission” defense, but no one ever noticed. I was livid again. Why all this testing? No one can keep up with it! This started 8 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
I was teaching 8th grade when the district added the EXPLORE test. The EXPLORE test predicts how well kids will do on the PLAN test which predicts how well kids will do on the ACT test which has almost no predictive value about how well kids will do in college. I was an outspoken critic. More money wasted, more instructional time gone, no information that I didn’t already have. This started 4 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
Where was the outrage all of this time? Why was I the only voice against non-stop testing, test prep, and the Big Test? If you think this is a Common Core issue, you are way wrong. If you hate the Common Core because of testing, you are way off base.
Are people making money from new tests? Probably, but I never hear a peep from you about the insane SAT or ACT preparation industries. Are there glitches in the new online tests? Of course, but at least testing is finally getting into the 21st century instead of looking exactly like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills I took half a century ago (46 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE!). But still, I agree: this testing mania is insane!
And here is the mind-blowing part: I don’t hate the Common Core State Standards.
For some time now, I have been asking haters to tell me exactly which standard they don’t like. You don’t like “Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea?” You don’t like “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation?” You don’t like “Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate?” Well then, tell me exactly which ones need to be tossed out? NOT ONE PERSON HAS EVER ANSWERED THIS QUESTION. Only a fool sees things in black and white; all good or all bad; everything or nothing. Aren’t there some good ideas here?
More history. When I started teaching, I was told to teach language arts. I had some ideas of things to do, but I never had a clear idea of what the end result was supposed to be. I was told to assign book reports and teach topic sentences and other things, but everyone was weak on where we were all supposed to be headed. I would not have minded at all someone saying, “At the end of this year, see if you can get kids to recognize and correct vague pronouns (i.e., ones with unclear or ambiguous antecedents).” Ah, that’s what appropriate for this age! That’s my goal. We’ll shoot for that.
And that is all a standard is.
No all or nothing.
No “I hate Bill Gates.”
And definitely no “But testing is horrible!!!!”
I am happy that after twenty years, people are joining me on the Too Much Testing Bandwagon. I am seriously disappointed, however, that people can’t see a distinction between a standard and a test. And I am shocked at the number of folks who haven’t figured out that you can have standards and not have ridiculous amounts of tests. They do not logically have to go together. You can (and should?) hate testing but not standards.