Right now I'm administering a practice SOL (Standards of Learning) test to one third grader alone. He's being given the test alone because he is autistic and very easily affected and distracted by others. I'm glad that we are able to offer him this accommodation to the testing. However, I don't believe that we are really going to learn anything about his achievement through this process.
A multiple choice test is very difficult for him because he is so literal. He has trouble analyzing the various answers. He completed the sample question and choose an incorrect answer. When I asked him about it, he was able to explain his thinking (which made sense in a convoluted way). I believe that if he were to answer questions about these short texts without multiple choices, he would do quite well.
He also is unable to work for an extended period of time. Just looking at the first passage, which is about a page long, stressed him out. He spent the morning yesterday taking the math practice test and is now spending the afternoon taking the reading test. He kept asking me why he has to take these tests. I had no good answer for him. According to his classroom teacher, he is able to read longer texts, but broken up over time. They are working on his stamina while reading or working, but he isn't there yet. Taking this test is torture for him.
He is an unusual example because he is autistic. For him, time spent taking this test is not helping him learn and for us, it is not giving us useful information about his learning. But, he will still spend four days this year taking practice SOL tests and five days taking the actual SOL tests. That is five percent of the school days in the year.
While he is an unusual example, I believe that there are many students for whom testing is hell and about whom we learn little from the results. We give the test on one day of the year and expect that it will tell us all about the student's abilities and achievement. Many students, even in third grade, have test anxiety, which also impacts the results.
I'm not against accountability. I'm happy to open my classroom to anyone who wants to come in and see what is happening. I'm happy to show the various ways my students can and have demonstrated their learning. I have nothing to hide. But I'm tired of spending my precious time with students taking multiple choice tests.