Testing is Not Learning!
- Author: Anonymous, Teacher
- State: NY
- Date: May 12 at 11:04 am ET
Standardized testing has eradicated the culture of learning in public schools. Instead of students actively questioning and pursuing knowledge, they are forced to fit curiosity, interpretation, abstract thinking and critical reasoning into tightly delineated multiple choice questions and “evidence based “argumentative writing. For six days, the students were exposed to ambiguous questions, irrelevant texts, and convoluted reasoning under the guise of the Common Core. For what reason? Measures of Student Learning and Common Core aligned state tests are eroding innovation and creativity and stifling agency. How can students grasp complicated, abstract concepts and create sophisticated arguments when they are not a part of knowledge production and reproduction? Testing maintains the status quo by continuing to marginalize those who have the most to gain from critical awareness.
For bilingual students, continuous testing is the norm. They have a test for everything in order to measure growth. Students have been forced to take baseline assessments in English and Spanish on Science and Social Studies content as well as mathematics. For my newly arrived students, it’s a shock to face a barrage of tests. Bilinguals already face the stigma of their language status and are already categorized as lower students in the perception of other students. Standardized Testing reinforces stereotypes and leads to an acute perception of failing in a new culture. Students internalize the attitudes and discourse; they refer to themselves as a one, two, or three. Reading has been minimized and turned into looking for things in order to answer a question instead of as a way of life. Mathematics has become a conceptual exercise in nothing instead of an applied content. The school rushed to meet the ridiculous demands of the test by requiring vigorous test prep. Teachers were forced to use test to prep materials and to assess the students using the rubric attached to it. The learning environment was highly scripted with no room for collaboration, synthesis, or analysis. Sticking to the text was encouraged as the golden rule even if connections to the real world were more practical. Students became unmotivated stating that it was too hard and they were going to fail anyways. This increased anxiety as students started to have behavioral problems. No one wanted to be in school, including the teachers. The test put a tangible face on failure and students were hyper aware of it. They only cared about getting answers right instead of the why are we doing this in the first place. How does this encourage any of my students to learn? It is disheartening to see how individual learning has become generalized and packaged. After the test, the students have started to act as if the school year is over. They ask me to go on trips and why we are still in class when school is over. They are disengaged and want to play all the time. In class productivity has decreased and the turning in of homework is nonexistent.
Moving forward, schools should measure student growth using portfolios which is where the Chancellor is moving. Parents should be informed of alternatives to testing and their right to opt –out. Standardized testing should be optional and seen comprehensively. Six days of testing should not determine a student’s educational trajectory. The Project Method provides an alternative testing which takes into consideration the lived experience of our students. Through the contribution of all students, we create classroom community in which every voice manners. Students choose projects that are based on social justice movements such as colonization processes, racism, immigration rights, and poverty. Students are able to grapple with complex content, constructing and deconstructing knowledge and in their own way digesting it. Students become more than poor data indicators and ones; they can see how education is applicable and how they can make a change in the world. Students can have final projects based on their different ways of learning: written essays, musical performances, mathematical analysis, and critical analysis among others. Teachers must be reflective and see their students as more than failures. Projects make learning tangible and at the same time personal. This motivates both students and teachers since education becomes a process not a test. Substantive learning takes place students are motivated and proactively making meaning and interpreting the world around them. We call this reading and math. As educators, let us make sure that students can become global citizens by increasing critical capacity not oppressing it.