In response to last month’s front page article about the improved rate of student’s test scores, I was surprised to find that we have introduced standardized tests to Kindergartners. Four, 5 and 6 year olds will be joining the rest of their peers in a shared language of tests, multiple choice and test results. Teachers will be spending valuable instruction time teaching how to take the test using the necessary technology and the actual questions from the test are kept confidential. In the end, parents have little idea what questions their children are being asked and what value this will play in shaping their children’s learning.
Is this what we really want for our students, our children and our community?
Last month’s article makes reference to districts being accountable for providing a “full picture of student achievement” so let’s think about representing our full student’s potential which includes strengths and skills not always reflected in test results.
Phillipe Perrenoud states that schools fail students mostly by failing to respond to their differences (www.fairtest.org). A standard way of measuring student’s achievement does not take into account different learning styles and is subject to implicit bias and cultural insensitivity. It is also not inclusive of children with needs related to dyslexia, for example, because kindergartners are too young to have an official diagnosis of dyslexia. Instead of setting our students up to fail by forcing them into stressful situations with no real value to their education, why don’t we create a system based on their strengths?
According to an article on The Value of Formative Assessment (fairtest.org), the student should be the “ultimate user” of assessment information to help them improve their learning. The assessment should be focused on a task and not a particular student, and the student needs to fully understand the feedback so they can in turn use it to improve. The ultimate goal should be to have students learn to “self-assess” so they can understand the purpose of their education.
This should be the goal. Our students shouldn’t be used as test subjects given tests that no one can review because they are confidential, and given scores that mean nothing to them, after spending time completing tests for other people’s gain.
As a parent, tax payer and educator, I believe we owe it to our children to at least try. We can only improve and innovate when we have full transparency into why and what we are testing our children on. We need to have conversations about alternative ways to assess students that support all learners instead of forcing all students to take the same test the same way despite their different skills and abilities.
We should be having conversations and not taking for granted that because the system has always been this way, then it should always continue this way. The world is different now, especially with new technology and values of innovation and creativity. Let’s use our skills of innovation and creativity as we think about our students and how we can serve them better. When we know more, we do better. Now that we know more about what skills we need in the world today, and we know more about how children really learn and develop, let’s use this knowledge as a community to do right by our students and think about the impact of testing and children’s education overall which includes real academic achievement, social-emotional health and well-being and overall success on their journey of becoming life learners and citizens in the world.
Carissa M. Vega, M.S. CCC-SLP,
Speech-Language Pathologist and Educational Consultant