Our school began our spring, state-mandated, standardized tests yesterday. The first group of students to endure this challenge are our fourth graders. Yesterday's test was math, which is a marathon of questions. At the end of the day I asked one of the fourth grade teachers how it had gone. She said she had students at both extremes. I took this to mean students who took their time and took it seriously versus students who zipped through the test. That's not what she meant at all. She had one young woman who had been coming in everyday for the last week stressing out about things she could not remember how to do: adding decimals, finding the mean, the median, and the mode, etc. This student bawled for the first hour of the test necessitating a call to the testing coordinator because it was a disruption for other students. The other end of the spectrum was a student who took the test in another room in a small group. He fell asleep.
I'm not sure what these two examples suggest about our culture of testing. I think it can't be too good, though. As teachers we walk a fine line trying to be sure our students take the tests seriously without falling apart at the seams. Students begin taking these tests at the age of eight. That is awfully young to feel the burden of test scores. I worry that learning for the joy of learning will quickly be lost when we subject students to more and more standardized testing.