Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Hidden Cost of Standardized Testing

Our school (like so many others) is in the throes of standardized testing. That's less of an impact on my life now as a first grade teacher than it was as a fourth or fifth grade teacher. However, the testing we do have to do is time consuming and really throws us off.

I've been giving the (fairly) new Mathematics Reasoning Assessment to my students in small groups over the past week. It will take us another week to finish it. It's a pretty good assessment, all things considered. That's not my issue here.

I work really hard for months and months to build a learning community with these students in which they can take risks, talk about their thinking, share their ideas, and learn from one another. Then all of a sudden, I tell them to shut up.

Not in those exact words, but that is exactly what I'm doing.

The only time during our day when we don't talk at all is independent reading. In the beginning of the year this lasts about five minutes. By now it lasts 20-40 minutes (depending on our reading workshop schedule). And even though they can't talk during their independent reading time, they get the chance to talk about their thinking when we share at the end of workshop.

With standardized assessments they never get to talk about it. Well, I guess we will talk about it when everyone is finished and they have all been scored. But that won't be too meaningful for six and seven year olds.

I'm not convinced that the level of achievement on these standardized assessments truly matches my students. They are being assessed in a way that is too foreign for them. I know I could offer them more opportunities for this type of assessment throughout the year, but time is precious and I'd rather offer them as many opportunities for genuine learning together.

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