The State Testing Debate
I would like to give a big “thank you” to our students, parents, teachers, administrators, counselors and support staff for working so hard and showing the “can do” spirit in regard to the new state testing. I was very proud to see all staff working together to rearrange schedules and help each other. Our attendance rate during the testing was very high and students seemed to work extremely hard to do their best. Even when there were technical difficulties, students were patient and in good spirits, as were their teachers.
Originally, the Ohio Department of Education told us that the new testing, which began on February 17, would be administered online. They then reconsidered and, for this year, we could choose to let the students take paper and pencil tests. We decided to use a combination, paper/pencil for English language arts and math (5 testing sessions) and online for science and social studies (1 testing session). We worried that the testing platform would not be able to handle the amount of traffic it would get all at the same time (remember the Affordable Health Care website?). However, we did want to introduce our students and staff to the online testing format, since they most likely will be taking all tests this way in the future.
The good news is that our students and staff took the new tests in stride, and while there were a few technical issues with the science and social studies tests, all tests were completed within the allowed window. The next round of testing will begin in late April with End of the Year Assessments.
The Governor and the State Superintendent of Public Education came out last month and conceded that our students were being tested too much. (We educators tried to tell them that last year!) Their plan is to cut back on some of the testing next year.
So, you might ask, what is the best way to assess children? My opinion is that testing should be used to help teachers understand how much students have learned in order to help them learn even more. The best tests are the ones that give us immediate feedback so teachers can intervene with students who need extra time to master a concept or skill. Also, immediate feedback gives us data on students who are ahead of their peers so teachers can give them work that is challenging to them. We already offer these types of tests in the classrooms, and we even have online tests that are much shorter in length than the state tests and give us immediate, relevant data. Unfortunately we will not get the results of this month’s state testing until next November.
But since the State of Ohio says we must take the tests, we will do that because we know it is important to follow the law, and it is important for us to be role models to students in this respect. I am hopeful, however, that the state legislators will begin to listen to educators and trust us to advise them on what is sound educational strategy when it comes to student assessment.