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.