By Greg Sampson
Education reformers have been working for decades to convince the public, parents, and educators that we need a standardized test to tell us how well students have learned their lessons. Teacher judgment, irrelevant. Work portfolios, who needs those? Project-based learning, ridiculous. Where is the rubric? Teacher-created tests, well, teachers don’t know what they’re doing, do they?
It takes a once-a-year, produced-in-secret, not-subject-to-outside-review test to measure student learning.
It’s all about the test.
Teachers resist because they know the process of child development and learning is more than what can be measured by a standardized test, which is mostly multiple-choice even when it is disguised in drag-and-drop, drop-down box, or multi-select formats. They see how students know the answer but can’t put it into the computerized format so the answer will be scored correct. Teachers tend to think that means there is something wrong with how the test is administered.
Parents resist because they know their children, assist with homework, conference with teachers, and reject the labeling of their children by the tests. They see the stress the once-a-year standardized test places upon their children and they know how that stress prevents their children from demonstrating knowledge and skill on the test.
Principals resist … well, they can’t show it can they? Being on annual contracts, they have to play the game.
But the resistance is futile because students have bought into the test. They are not concerned with acquiring knowledge; they are not concerned with understanding ideas and the world around them. They are not concerned with mastery of a subject. They want to know how to choose the right answer when they are given choices A, B, C, or D.
A typical conversation in my secondary math classroom this fall:
Teacher, concluding the lesson, “And that’s how you do it.”
Student, “How will I recognize the right answer choice on the test?”
Teacher, “The test is not important. What is important is that you understand how to solve the problem.”
Student, “You have to tell me what answer choice to look for when I get that kind of problem.”
Teacher, “We are not about how to pass the test in this classroom. We are about learning and acquiring mathematical skills.”
Student, “I have to pick the right answer on the test.”
Teacher, “This is why I hate multiple choice tests. It’s not about picking the right choice. It’s about showing that you can find a solution.”
Student, “Why won’t you help me pass my test?”
Teacher, “SCHOOL IS MORE THAN PASSING TESTS.”
Entire Class, “OH, NO IT’S NOT. OUR ONLY REASON FOR BEING IN SCHOOL IS TO PASS -- THE --TEST!”
Congratulations, Reformers. You haven’t convinced the adults, but you have brainwashed the children. They have one job to do and they know what it is.