Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Testing Hell

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.


organized chaos said...

yesterday I tested a small group of 6 third graders for the math section. One kiddo who is def. not autistic or 'labeled' in any way had an extreme amount of difficulty merely transfering his correct answer to the scantron sheet. Even with a 'mask' to track with he still filled in bubbles to questions he'd already answered or skipped ahead and filled in bubbles all over the place. He was trying hard on the actual tasks, but couldn't make the connection to the answer sheet.
I guess this is why we practice, but I was just amazed that after 2 hours all this test is going to show us is who can and cannot fill out the bubble sheet.

Michaele said...

...and what really kills you is knowing what kinds of reading, artwork, science explorations, music performances, manipulations of math, etc. you could be doing with your students during that practice-test-time that your students would be MUCH more engaged by, and be learning so much more from! No wonder I enjoy kindergarten so much.... shhhh! Don't tell, or someone will come up with a three paragraph essay test for five year olds!

Scott said...

and isn't it ironic that the test is called S.O.L. (think for a second about the other phrase that fits that acronym)

Robin said...

Sounds like this student should be a candidate for the VGLA and over the years work up his test taking stamina.