Like many published authors, I don’t earn enough to pay the bills penning books, so I need to have a day job to supplement my income. Currently, I am employed at a local elementary school. I work with special needs students, inclusion, which is where I go from classroom to classroom spending anywhere from fifteen to forty minutes, either helping with assignments, or I bring work equivalent to their academic abilities.
This week the third, fourth, and fifth grades are taking the bulk of the state issued standardize tests. The fifth grade have already tested, and those who didn’t pass are retaking make-up tests. The fourth graders have taken one exam and will complete their tests this week, but this is the first round for third grade students.
These tests are specifically designed to measure individual student progress in relation to content directly tied to the state’s knowledge and skill essentials, meaning every test question is aligned to those standards.
During test time, hallways are quiet, guarded by paraprofessionals to ensure no one enters. Teachers read the instructions, and after, must stay silent. They cannot read the questions unless the child has accommodations which state otherwise. (Most of my students.) Faculty and staff members may not sit during the four-hour duration, but must walk around and observe. They cannot read or write, only actively monitor to make sure students are honest, stay awake, and bubble in their answers.
Are the stakes too high?
Most diametrically connected with education and parents cry foul when it comes to these cookie cutter assessments, the weight that they carry, and rightly so. I’ve witnessed so many students and teachers struggle with this material, either teaching or learning.
One problem is the exam language is written beyond the child’s grade level. Current tests are devised three language Lexile’s higher than former standardized tests for the same grade level (a Lexile measure is the numeric representation of an individual’s reading ability or a text’s readability). Students may know the subject matter, yet not understand, because test questions are phrased in language beyond their comprehension ability.
Oh, no they didn’t…
The State Board of Education decided in 2015 to “push down” fifth grade math material, which was originally taught in the seventh grade. What else does “pushing down” imply? It means teachers must teach the material during the school year, pilfering valued time needed to teach basics.
This practice makes math harder to learn, student’s are more rushed, and the material is developmentally inappropriate, which means students are held to higher performance standards on unsuitable objectives with the threat of grade retention held over their head if they fail.
Until 2014, my state has never included standardized test scores for final grades. Under state law, local school districts awarded final grades as classroom teachers are in the best position to assess a student’s knowledge and academic progress.
All is fair, or is it?
Studies also show standardized tests are more challenging to students who are hampered by less fortunate circumstances. Low-income pupils typically begin school less prepared as opposed to their affluent counterparts. Schools in lower-income areas often have a greater employee turnover, intensifying the instability by the state’s current policy of further destabilizing campuses with low standardized test scores.
Should they or not?
Research shows standardized tests are not a true measure of what a child knows, and tests certainly do not measure a child’s worth.
Should children take state tests? Absolutely! But let’s be real. Children shouldn’t be over-tested and should not be judged by their scores. State test ought to be used as a measuring stick to target needed improvements, not as a weapon against kids doing their best against challenging odds. Children aren’t standardized, and they shouldn’t be evaluated as such.
They deserve better.