We don’t Create Change by Testing

Can anyone point to any place (school, community, state) where testing has had a long term effect on the deepening of learning? Where is the study that states testing has positively effected the community around the schools where they are used?

I would love to see data not driven by raises in test scores, but instead by practical signs of real system change. Did testing help to increase the student engagement, the community involvement, Teacher satisfaction with their professional lives? How about positively effecting the local economy,  or the rate of hope among students that they had access to good jobs and future learning opportunities?

Why don’t we ask for this data? Why is it only math scores and reading scores? I think we don’t have these types of conversations because the testing industry has made us believe that testing will create the change we seek. We fight against the testing companies and testing, but instead we should be asking them to prove their worth.

We don’t create change by testing. We create change by supporting teachers, by providing funding to education, by solving poverty, by empowering students to have a voice in how learning happens, by encouraging and providing the freedom for teachers to develop learning that is relevant, place based, real world, connective and that can only happen if others learn together.

It is not even that testing sucks, it is just bad science and a waste of money, time and effort. It had a role to play at first, but it now being used to punish teachers, students and communities instead of shining a light on the injustices and racism of our economic and educational system. The idea that testings is in any way helping learning is outdated at best and pure propaganda at worst.

Testing is a distraction, it is like trying to heal a dying tree by cutting off one of the branches. The roots of our current system are rotten. We need to let it die, and plant a new tree. Tree seed organically and so too will schools where learning is happening

-Adventures in Learning

In response to this thread on Facebook

As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity

This great article written by Peter Grey provides the argument for more freedom in our classrooms and for less tests with finite answers.

“Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, and pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today.  In the real world few questions have one right answer, few problems have one right solution; that’s why creativity is crucial to success in the real world.  But more and more we are subjecting children to an educational system that assumes one right answer to every question and one correct solution to every problem, a system that punishes children (and their teachers too) for daring to try different routes. “

Are we providing students with the chance to be creative and expand they ability to imagine, rethink, and improve our society and themselves. It also highlights the argument that testing creativity standardized testing or multiple choice short answers will not work. Classrooms that support creatively and purposeful freedom are not only good for our students, but also for a success democratic society.

National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing
In just one day, the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing has attracted over 100 organizations and more than 2000 individuals! If you have not signed, please go to http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution/. And tell your friends, other groups, etc. Among the groups, judging from the names, are school districts, civil rights groups, parent groups, religious organizations, and of course education groups. And it has been nice to see old friends and colleagues’ names as I scroll through – along with rapidly growing numbers of folks I do not know at all!
If you need testsandgrades to know if your child is learning then you don’t know your child. #abvote #abed #edchat #edtech #bced
Comment Posted by Carol Black on "Are Teachers Activists?" « via Cooperative Catalyst

hese are such important questions.

If you look at the phenomenon of collaborative “cheating” in school, for example, you’ll see that it represents a child’s choice of the value of loyalty to a friend over compliance with a structure that tries to pit her against her friends in a competition for adult approval. (This value contradiction should be obvious when we hear the old admonishment before a test, “Don’t help your neighbor!”)

This same value placed on loyalty and mutual support is evident in groups of kids who choose to defy all authority, define their own idea of socially desirable (or “cool”) behavior, and hold in some contempt the child who strives to please authority figures. These kids’ bond to one another, their willingness to sink or swim in the world together, is given precedence over the system’s desire to measure them against one another in order to provide them with differential rewards.

The interesting thing is that both the most and the least privileged social classes tend to evidence an emphasis on group bonding and mutual aid that transcends the competition of the school system. The upper classes always take care of their own, and if one of their children does not perform well in school, he can still become President of the United States! Crucially, however, this social code excludes 99% of the population from its vision of group loyalty and support.

Kids in the poorest communities often know that they can’t expect justice from the system, and so they bond to one another in defiance of it. They understand that what the system offers is a chance for 1% of them to escape to join the upper 1% of society, but that 99% will be left behind. Again, this often leads to resentment of the child who takes advantage of the offer to “rise” out of the community.

Instead of insisting on a competitive zero-sum vision of “success” and then judging kids as “dysfunctional’ when they resist it, we could, as you suggest, be taking this evidence of children’s natural loyalty to their friends as a positive social value that can guide us in creating learning opportunities which are not in conflict with it – not to mention a society and an economy which are not in conflict with it.

The opposite social values, however, are structured deep into the system. The first thing that would have to go is grading.

 Posted by Carol Black | December 10, 2011, 12:32 pm
A Standardized Testing Fairytale « Cooperative Catalyst

At last the powerful men realized that the ideas were being passed down each generation through schools.

“We must close those darn institutions,” they said.

“Schools can shape vulnerable young minds,” they complained.

“What if we were in charge of schools?” another asked.

“We’ve tried to control schools for decades, but those darn teachers are too liberal,” another responded.

They hatched a plan. They would weave a tale about the corruption of teachers and the downward spiral of schools. Since the media was controlled by them, any story they released would be BIG news, and would scare the public into ceding control of the public schools to their private interests.

The public bought their story, especially after the highly publicized release of the movie, Waiting for Standardized-testing man.The few politicians not on their payroll did the same. Very quickly they rammed through a bill they secretly called No Children Left Free. The bill deliberately introduced mind-numbing testing. “Better to control their minds if their minds are weak,” they cackled.

After a few years, it seemed like their plan was working when all of a sudden they hit a road block. For reasons unknown to them, a blue man had been elected to office! They panicked. They tried everything they could to prevent the blue man from taking office, but he seemed untouchable. “Foul!” they cried. “He was born on the moon!” they claimed. “He is not like us,” they implored, “he will sell our country out to his friends in the hot country.” Nothing worked, and the blue man became high ruler of the land.

However they discovered that although the blue man was not like them, he had a weakness. He did not understand education. So they tricked him into installing one of their agents as his leader of the schools, and all was good for them again. Their agent, a servant of the dark lords of Accountability, continued their destruction of the public schools. He introduced the Race to the Top of the Mountain bill, and everyone, except some of “those darn liberals” thought it was a great idea.

When one of the more prominent “darn liberals” spoke out against the Race to the Top of the Mountain legislation, they sent one of their attack dogs to silence her. When the teachers complained about it, they laughed and used their media servants to belittle and humiliate the teachers. “You are just being greedy,” they said as they lined their friends’ pockets with money from the government. “Stop complaining,” they laughed, as they cut services to everyone. “Education needs to be improved in this country,” they lied as they cut spending to education, and worked to destroy teachers. “Competition is healthy for schools,” they claimed, “after all businesses have to compete. Do more, with less.”

Across the country the Race to the Top of the Mountain idea spread, until teachers felt vilified in their work, to the glee of the men, and most school districts scrambled to compete for the scraps from the trough. Some school districts even found ways to replace teachers with robots to cut costs. Others fired teachers with experience and hired rookies instead, preferring to save money over having schools which worked.

As the public schools began to fail and be replaced by schools more to the men’s choosing, the men began to get excited.

occupyedu:

I occupy ed by not administering standardized tests. A typical day at school is challenging enough for students stressed by the economy, family tensions, and pressure to perform. Many students are also traumatized by poverty, violence, and drug use in their communities. High stakes tests only benefit the vendors.

occupyedu:

I occupy ed by not administering standardized tests. A typical day at school is challenging enough for students stressed by the economy, family tensions, and pressure to perform. Many students are also traumatized by poverty, violence, and drug use in their communities. High stakes tests only benefit the vendors.

  Download

visualturn:

Choke book coverWhether you are sitting for an important test or sinking a winning golf putt, your brain can get in the way when you need to perform at your very best. Ginger Campbell, MD, of the Brain Science Podcast interviews psychology researcher Sian Beilock about her book, Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.

This excellent interview regarding research conducted at Beilock’s Human Performance Lab at the University of Chicago provides some great insights into how the brains of high performers can interfere with delivering an expert performance when it matters most. Beilock doesn’t stop at explaining the many different reasons why someone might choke on a test, a job interview, a speech, or an athletic game. She offers many practical suggestions for how to overcome the memory overload that can impede top performance.

This is really valuable information for students and their teachers. Beilock says high performers are more likely to choke on a test than students with lesser skills. This seems counter-intuitive until she explains that these higher performers generally have greater working memory to help them perform highly complex cognitive tasks, but this working memory can become flooded by anxiety and worry, significantly limiting the amount of working memory available for the task, resulting in a less than optimal performance.

Beilock describes research that shows that 10 minutes of free writing about these feelings and anxieties can relieve the worries enough to free up that valuable working memory for the cognitive tasks and performance can return to normal.

The interview is filled with interesting research findings and concrete suggestions about mitigating performance problems. Brain Science Podcast host Ginger Cambell does a nice job leading Beilock through many different aspects of her research in a presentation that is easy to follow and full of practical advice. Be sure to take a look at previous episodes of the Brain Science Podcast for some fascinating interviews with many of the world’s leading neuroscience researchers.

What are we going to do as teachers to make this truly a historical picture? Any school with desk is rows… needs to see this picture… time for change…. yes indeed!
visualturn:

Students in a classroom during scholarship examinations, 16 April 1940.
Public domain image from State Library of Queensland, Australia, available at Wikipedia.
Seventy years and not much changes. 
Your grandparents were subjected to standardized testing too. I especially love the test proctor lurking ominously in the back corner.
— Visual Turn

What are we going to do as teachers to make this truly a historical picture? Any school with desk is rows… needs to see this picture… time for change…. yes indeed!

visualturn:

Students in a classroom during scholarship examinations, 16 April 1940.

  • Public domain image from State Library of Queensland, Australia, available at Wikipedia.

Seventy years and not much changes. 

Your grandparents were subjected to standardized testing too. I especially love the test proctor lurking ominously in the back corner.

Visual Turn

Library Workers Step In For Teachers In Atlanta Amid Budget Shortfall

"Dozens" of employees from APS’ media centers are being placed in positions vacated by teachers involved in the district-wide cheating scandal, positions that the library workers say they aren’t certified or comfortable to take on, WSBTV reports.

"I haven’t taught elementary level education in 21 plus years," one employee wrote in an e-mail to WSBTV. "I’m not prepared to teach the very children who have been cheated by the cheating scandal."

First the teacher were scapegoated for a broken system which was designed to give incentive to cheat and now the children are being punished. Don’t think by removing the teachers the system will be fixed. This is a systematic problem, a problem of a test that does not assess learning, nor the ability to teach.

How many times do we need to say or better yet show that the test is the cause of a lot of the problem?

How many times do we need to say we have no problem with assessment­?

We have a problem with a system that does not trust teachers or students or communitie­s to assess their own work.

We want quality education, we want meaningful education, we want to get better and grow, we don’t need tests to assess this. 

One of my dearest teaching friends actually dreams workable solutions to the instructional and relationship-based problems she brings home from class. We are all very jealous of her superpower.

Dreaming is at once easy and difficult. It’s so easy to see what we should be doing in providing kids with authentic, personally meaningful learning; it’s so hard to be told over and over again that we shouldn’t do that.

I was talking about this issue with a friend earlier this week. Lately, most conversations at our school have been about the testing and its consequences. It’s hard for me to know how to participate in such conversations while I’m trying to effect a completely different enterprise in my classroom. I feel like I lose some sight of myself and my calling at this time of year, and, frankly, I feel guilty for asserting the vision of education I believe in when we talk about the ways scores can have a direct impact on our school. It’s a coercive, coercive, coercive system.

It’s a weird time, but I hope the dreams keep coming.

Best,
C

A Heretic During Holy Week

cooperativecatalyst:

We enter into the Holy Week of Standardized Testing.   Gathering around for the initial ritual, the teachers pay close attention to every new commandment spelled out by the high priests of capitol hill, the Mount Sinai of education policy.  Are we in compliance?  Are we following the rituals?  Do we know the hellish wrath that will come upon our school if we screw up?

I strip my walls.  They’re naked.  Stark naked.  Not innocent naked.  No, they’re the duct tape over the mouth of a voice that can’t be heard.  Not on the Holy Week.   I prepare myself for the catechism of “fill in your answers heavy and dark,” as the students mindlessly respond, hoping to avoid the damnation of “approaches” or “falls far below.”  It’s a small act of dogmatic censorship, all in the name of faux fairness.

As we stare at the tidy Power Point full of rules and rituals and taboos, I silently question how many years I can go through the Holy Week as a test-taking atheist; someone who not only questions Data, but doesn’t believe in its inherent deity.

It’s the Cathedral of Data, with the stained-glass pie charts and I feel alone, depressed, broken by the system.  I’m not wearing a “Rock the Test” t-shirt.  I’m not singing in the choir of “do your best on the test.”  I’m bracing myself for the game of pretend, where I have to convince a group of students that I believe in the magic of the ritual.

Truth be told, I let them in on the secret.  I told my students that it’s a rigged system, worse than gambling or Chuck-E-Cheese.  I said that there were folks betting against them and making a great deal of money in the process.  I told them that it wasn’t a religion, so much as a legalized form of organized crime.

I told them that they could be Copernicus or Galileo, ruining a test-centric universe by proving to the world that the best test prep isn’t test prep, but in fact deeper thinking.   I don’t want to be excommunicated, but I don’t want to lose my soul, either.  So, I tell them that we’ll do well, not because we love the test, but because we hate it.  We want to stick it to McGraw Hill, who I see as the educational version of a televangelist promising God’s blessings if we’ll just try harder and pay up.

“Do you have any questions?” they ask.

I know better.

I stay silent.

But still, I have questions.  Unanswered questions.  Rhetorical, perhaps.  Yes, I have questions:

  • If we say we want differentiated instruction, why does every child take the same test in the same way?
  • If we say we want critical thinkers, why are the tests created at the lowest base knowledge level?
  • If we say we need multiple intelligences, why are the tests only in one modality?
  • If we say it’s important that students learn to ask questions, why do they spend the entire time filling out bubbles, answering other people’s questions?
  • If we say we need students who can make connections between multiple sources, subjects and topics, why are all the test questions separated by subject?
  • If we say that students need to articulate an answer in their own words, why are the tests based upon recall instead of synthesis of knowledge?
  • If we say we want creativity, why aren’t students actually creating anything?  Why aren’t they developing solutions and actually solving problems?
  • If we say we want students who can collaborate, why do they test in isolation? And why are we creating a system where knowledge cannot be shared?

Yeah, I have questions.  Not just about the test, but about a nation that holds eighth graders accountable for meaningless facts while the Wall Street execs who bankrupt our economy got off with a golden parachute.

I have questions.

John T. Spencer is a teacher in Phoenix, AZ who blogs at johntspencer.com.  He recently finished two books, Pencil Me In, an allegory for educational technology and Drawn Into Danger, a fictional memoir of a superhero.