Tuesday, March 23, 2010

State Tests - Friend or Foe?

From the Apple

David B. Cohen left the following comment: I noticed lots of talk about state tests in the entries I read, and wondered if the attitude towards the tests is generally positive, negative, or mixed among the teachers you work with.

I'm not sure how other teachers feel about state tests. I'm pretty sure I know how Courtney feels and most other first year teachers, but I'll let them speak for themselves! As for me, it's easy to support accountability when you're a Kindergarten teacher and your children don't take the test! Having said that, I think teachers are generally fine with accountability and with our state test. The problem, however, is that it's become too BIG and too IMPORTANT. Instead of just being another piece, it's the whole pie! Everything about a child's entire year is based on that one day. In our county, where we have performance pay (and a pretty lousy model at that), a teacher's performance is almost totally judged on test scores. Don't get me wrong. I love the idea that the children in my school get to show what they have learned- that teachers who have worked so hard have a chance to show their stuff, but the severe judgements that are made from a single test, the stress and tears are just out of proportion. I also HATE the fact that teachers have come to believe that test taking strategies are more important than teaching children a love for reading and writing and math. I hate that teachers skip Social Studies because it's not a tested subject instead of teaching it because they know it's the right thing to do. I guess in the ideal world, I would just hope for balance.

My experience in education is that the pendulum swings back and forth and right now the pendulum seems to to be stuck in the Science of teaching, the accountability through testing, the data-driven everything. Hopefully, as it usually does, the pendulum will begin to swing back again toward the middle and we will once again talk about teaching the whole child and the art of teaching. And hopefully, we won't throw out the baby with the bath water. I hope we will hold on to the good parts of accountability and assessment but begin to listen to common sense!

What do you think? How do you feel about the state test?


  1. Dear dayle,
    How true that it seems the pendulum swings with the test! The love of learning is at the heart of teaching and is not to be forgotten. With all of the criteria that we as teachers have to meet each day within a seemingly limited schedule; the luster of learning seems to sometimes wax dim. It is so important to teach to the whole child and teach things that maybe we don't have "time for", but we know are great for kids. Thank you for reminding us of this... and setting our hearts straight :). ~rachel bridges

  2. I wonder how many of these legislators in Tallahassee have ever taken "the test"... a lot of them make up the rules but never have to abide by them or withstand the scrutiny and accountability that that they are requiring of children and teachers. I personally am not a fan of the test and think that it is a narrow and rigid view of the learning process. MM

  3. I am an elementary General Music teacher and I strongly believe that the legislators who set policy in Tallahassee should be required to spend one week in an educator's classroom teaching. I am certain they would have a better understanding of the time-constraints that are placed upon teachers, the behavioral issues that impede the teaching process and the frustration many teachers feel regarding THE TEST. One test given on one day in the life of a student does not reflect the whole child. I believe we must educate the whole child and I support the need for accountability, but there has got to be a better way to accomplish this task.

    In Duval County, my second and fifth grade students are tested by the district twice a year in music. A pre-test is given in September and a post-test is given in May. My performance pay is based on learning gains met over the course of the school year. I have over 1300 students that I teach, which translates into approximately 16 class meetings per year on each grade level. How can anyone be expected to teach an entire year's worth of curriculum, cover all of the music standards and prepare for grade level performances in 16 class meetings? It's nearly impossible and much is sacrificed along the way.

    During FCAT testing, I am called upon to proctor in fifth grade. I lose nearly two weeks of instructional time in my content area each year while this test is being administered. Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying - I have no problem supporting this effort because it reflects on our school as a whole. However, as I watch the intermediate teachers breathe a sigh of relief when it is over, I am still pressing through what little time I have left before my music students must "stand up and be counted."

    Needless to say, this time of year is very stressful for all of us. We teach because we choose to teach and we believe that what we do has value in the life of a child.

    I would like to leave you with a quote from my annual "letter to my legislators" wherein I must "stand up and be counted" and work to save my job each spring during the legislative session. It states, "I have a dream that the teaching profession will one day be held in the highest esteem alongside the medical and legal professions. Without the professional educator, there would be no other professions of which to speak."

  4. As a classroom teacher that administered the test and more importantly, a mommy...I hate what it does to kids. The kids that have no problem taking it are bored to death for two weeks and the kids that struggle are reminded in a horribly painful way that they are strugglers. I would really rather spend that time productively.

  5. I don't mind the FCAT. In my humble opinion, this is all about attitude. We, as teachers, parents, or administrators, choose to give the FCAT sharp claws and a loud roar. Teach the standards, do the best to provide sound educational experiences that meet the needs of children, and declaw the "cat."

    I will say that I am disappointed with the use of the FCAT as the sole measure for performance pay (both teacher and school grades). I would rather see it as one of the pieces of a portfolio of teacher/school work.