Friday, March 11, 2016

Standardized testing -- in or out?

My oldest child is now in 3rd grade, which in our state means it's time for the big No Child Left Behind-inspired assessments. There have been emails going around about the process of opting out, and my son even asked me about it. Some parents were having their children skip the tests, he said, so what about us?

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I know what the tests will show. He knows the third grade material. His school is full of above-average children. This is time that he will not be learning much new material, or reading novels, or inventing timelines for fictional characters, or playing outside in the lovely spring air.

On the other hand, it is test practice, and I have my suspicions that test-taking is not one of his strong suits. Given that there is a lot of test taking in life (SATs, etc.) this is not a bad thing to practice in years when it doesn't much matter.

I am also not opposed to testing and assessment at all. While there were many flaws with NCLB (the lack of national standards, the once-annual as opposed to value-added and no-ceiling approaches) I know that there were schools that simply weren't teaching kids, and then claimed that tests couldn't account for all they did. Well, maybe. My son has had amazing teachers, which any test would show. I had plenty of good teachers over the years, too, though I also had some lousy teachers that I feel more rigorous assessment could have sussed out. That at least is the basic idea of testing and accountability.

In any case, I know many readers of Gifted Exchange have dealt with NCLB grade-level tests for years. What did you do? Did your schools have a culture of opting out? Did lots of families opt out, or was there broad encouragement to stay in? (if not from administrators, from other parents at least).

I would be curious to hear your experiences.


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

When our son was in school, he took every test that was offered. What else was he going to do with the time? The school wasn't going to give him something more fun. He did not mind the easy tests, and the school did not waste time on "test prep".

When we were home-schooling (10th grade and up), he took useful tests (pSAT, SAT, AP, SAT 2, AMC 10, AMC 12), but not useless ones (the state tests). He would have had to make a special trip across town to take the tests, and we weren't going to learn anything from them. He had plenty of better things to do with his time (too many other things most years).

lgm said...

During the nclb days, my sons took the tests. One cannot opt out of test prep, nor can one opt out of inclusive lessons. I afterschooled to make up for the district's decision to abandon grouping by instructional need for k to 6.test results clealry showed that the school was teaching less and less, although that was obvious the first year of state testing when the third grader was still reviewing last years material for the benefit of the included. Most middle class parents have left public school here...there is nothing for their child if they cant get an honors seat, and they won t because those seats are reserved for staff children and good ol boy children.

Anonymous said...

In an adjacent district to your district - very few opt out. My kids took the tests. As you mentioned, it is good practice for what is to come. My kids seem to do well on the fill-in-the-bubble tests, though we know some very bright kids who don't do as well as you might expect, so the practice can't hurt.