I don’t usually blog about issues that don’t impact my kids, but this one is different. We’re in Texas, where standardized testing (STing) is not required for homeschoolers… at this time. Who is to say what will happen in the future – but for now, it’s not an issue we have to deal with. Actually, since it is not required, I’m kind of opposed to homeschoolers voluntarily taking them, just because I can see how that might lead to legislation making it not optional in the future.
There’s such a buzz about STing all over the place that people seem to either not realize or forget that they’re really not a good way to ensure a minimum of education or gauge what a student has learned. Let me say right off the bat that I am in no way advocating standardized testing. I really think it’s faulty reasoning for schools to use STing results for making big educational decisions for many, many reasons. But I am curious as to what the alternatives to STing might be for large-scale operations and schools.
There’s a group on Facebook, Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing that I found recently, and though I tend to agree with the premise, you can’t just take away the only method that institutionalized school systems have for ensuring (attempting to, anyway) that at the very least, all students in X grade know XYZ. It’s not a perfect system (by far) but I do feel that if you’re going to entrust your children’s education to the government, there would need to be some sort of system in place to ensure that at least a minimum of education is met. STing is the method that has become that system.
Is it a perfect system? No. Is it even an adequate system? Not really, no. For one thing, STing does not take into consideration any child who does not learn via lecture. If you have a child who needs manipulatives to really grasp a concept, then in most ISDs he’s just out of luck. The whole process of STing does not allow for children who learn outside the norm.
Another issue is the test itself; I have been on the pencil end of many, many “fill in the bubble’ tests where the question is designed to trick you or mislead you. Now,while some might argue that questions like that are designed to test reading comprehension or to punish you for not paying attention, have seen many that are designed so that there may be more than one correct answer, depending on how you interpret the question. Some even have multi-part answers that are counted incorrect if you only miss part of the question. I’ve even found some homeschool tests that are like that – that’s not ascertaining what the student KNOWS, it’s ascertaining whether the student can take a test. Then there are the children who simply do not test well, or have a harder time with reading comprehension or don’t learn well visually. Such a big deal is made during testing grades that there is an enormous amount of pressure put onto the kids to do well – starting at 8 years old – earlier even if you’re in a school that has lower test scores. As young as 2nd grade, they’re starting to hear about tests and practicing for taking them. I know a couple of parents with children who worried themselves ill – literally – before testing days. How can that be healthy?
I’m really not opposed to assessment tests that actually look at what the child knows. I use them for my kids to keep us on track. I use the state’s standards as a guideline to see what we need to cover each year. We may stray from that as the kids interests dictate, but we do make an effort to stay near the state’s recommendations.
I’m mostly just thinking out loud here. Obviously, in an institutionalized setting, it will function differently than homeschooling will. It’s not practical to have a delight-led class of 25. I just think that there are too many kids who fall through the cracks in the current system.