Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Standardized Testing

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.

Warmly,

~h

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2 responses

  1. I believe the bad outweighs the good in terms of Standardized Testing.

    Just a few of the outcomes…

    1. There is a big problem of high schools pushing “bad” students out so they won’t affect the scores and funding. The dropout rate is becoming unreal in some states because of this.

    2. Teachers, administrators and students are all beginning to cheat regularly in order to pass and not lose funding.

    3. Equally important subjects are being nearly eliminated because they don’t “count” — physical education, the arts, history, music and often science. It’s all about reading/writing and math, at the expense of the rest of children’s educations.

    4. We’re losing all sense of content and meaning, for the sake of robotic testable tricks.

    5. You cannot test the things that matter most — the teacher who truly cares about his students, the teacher who ignites a love of learning in students who had intellectually checked out, the teacher who convinces students to stay in school because they matter and learning matters, the kids who get a real sense of what subjects MEAN because of a passionate teacher who brings them to life…

    6. We are competing with countries that are clearly besting us, and not looking at all at how they do it. It’s not through mega-testing.

    7. If we completely kill not only the joy of learning for the students but the joy of teaching for the teachers, WE HAVE LOST.

    That’s just a few of my reasons for thinking it’s just not worth it.

    What do we do about not being able to hold teachers and schools accountable? The same things we have to do with our own children when we HS them… respect them, give them tools, empower them to do what’s best for their own classrooms and trust them to do the right thing. Most people do not become teachers for evil reasons. Trust them to teach, put real humans who have done good things in charge as mentors and supervisors, and measure by outcomes that we measured by in the past. I don’t know what they used in the “old days” but once upon a time we had good schools without ST’ing so I think it would be wise to see what was working then.

    Sorry for the novel. Those are just a few of my thoughts! 🙂
    ~Alicia

    November 9, 2010 at 12:03 am

    • No, no – I’m so glad you commented 🙂 Those are excellent (and much more articulate) reasons, and I agree with them. I’ve even SEEN some of them, so I know they happen.

      In theory, I agree. I think that the current system is so far beyond repair at this point that there’s really no hope for it. That’s one of the reasons why we got out of it.

      ~h

      November 9, 2010 at 2:29 am

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