9/07/2009

Testing a little theory....

(Another Cleanup Post. This post was originally started on 8/29, and not finished until today, 9/7.)

In listening to the news this past week, there was a story about the SAT scores for the graduating class of 2009 in Indiana. The story indicated that the scores declined slightly over the previous year, and continued the trend of the slight declines seen since the early 1990's. During the 80's, the scores increased somewhat, creating a net gain of about 35 points over the course of 25 years.

Indiana, like every other state, participates in mandatory standardized tests. In this State, they are given between 3-10th grade, and 10th graders are also subjected to GQE testing that they must pass in order to graduate. The first round of tests are called the ISTEP.

Like Kentucky and their CATS testing, ISTEP is used to identify those schools that aren't "up to meeting the Educational Requirements of NCLB". The kids are told "This is the most important test you will ever take"... and all of the other usual Educational Rigamarole that turns off the students from even trying.

Enter the GQE - and again the 10th graders are told "this is the most important test you will ever take". (What about ISTEP?) Except this test decides whether or not you meet the basic standard for graduating high school. So...it should be a test the students truly take seriously. But many don't (until they are told they won't be graduating, then they retake and voila - they pass).

So by the time that Indiana students reach their Junior Year and are seemingly ready for the PSAT's, these kids have taken no less than 8 standardized tests that are "the most important test they will ever take". (Side note, in the case of the Cadet, up to his Junior Year he had taken a state mandated test in EVERY grade, two in grade 10 - outside of the old Iowa Test of Basic Skills that he was given in grades 3, 5 and 8 as well....so...his number reaches 13 standardized tests before he reached the PSAT's).

While some may argue that exposure to Standardize Testing will allow a student to become more comfortable with the procedure, ergo the student should perform better on the testing that truly does count for the future (ala SAT and ACT testing), the parameters surrounding these tests would, to my way of thinking, provide the exact opposite effect.

Because ISTEP (and CATS) are given such push by the educational community (because their bonus pool requires it), and because many teachers have had to move away from teaching methods that invite learning - having instead to favor teaching to the test to ensure success of their school and school district, students are taught only what is deemed "required" to pass the test. (Bye bye critical thinking skills - unless they are needed for that one portion of the test..) Furthermore, the testing value is diluted in the student's mind because "every test can't be the most important test I ever take..sheesh".

It is here that I will remind you that the Indiana ISTEP was implemented in the late 80's.

So the SAT scores have been declining since the early 90's? This seems to correlate quite nicely to the advancement of standardized testing of students doesn't it! Personally, I believe this is no coincidence for several reasons.

  • The kids placed no weight on the Standardized Testing that was literally "shoved" down their throats, and they rejected the importance of these tests based on the ra-ra push given to them by the teachers. They mean nothing as far as the kids are concerned because there is no direct consequence to failure.
  • Students cannot value the "importance" of an SAT or ACT related to their future. All throughout their education, they have taken so many standardized tests that mattered so very little, that now when a test does matter - allowing entrance or denial into the school of their choice - they don't know HOW to take a standardized test seriously.
Of course - that is just my opinion - and perhaps there is no coincidence at all.


1 comment:

DF said...

I remember taking the Iowa tests and maing patterns in the little blocks. Those tests bored anyone to tears, and yet as you indicate, at the time "were the most important tests that I would take". 8+ hours of testing over 2 days is more than most grade school children can care.