Thursday, May 09, 2013

Testing Causes Apathy

Conversations with various people lately have focused on apathy. Many teachers have complained about how their students aren't focused, working hard, paying attention, caring about what they are learning.

I sympathize. At the same time, I wonder how all these teachers would do in their students' shoes. Would they be focused? Would they work hard? Would they pay attention? Would they care about what they are learning?

A teacher (whom I greatly respect) recently had a talk with a child about effort. Apparently this child had scored lower on a post-assessment than on a pre-assessment. The child's explanation was that she had just guessed on some questions. My impression was that her teacher was frustrated.

So am I. But for a completely different reason. I don't blame this child for lack of effort here. I don't blame all these faceless, nameless students for their apathy.

A significant portion of their time at school is spent taking tests. State-mandated tests. District-mandated tests. Grade-level tests. Classroom tests. I would guess my daughter takes a couple of tests each week, on average. She's nine.

I would stop caring if that were true too. School should be about learning. Instead, it's about testing.

(Tim, a letter is being drafted. My concerns with testing will be shared with many.)


sehauser said...

Yes, yes, yes.
By the time testing really increased in schools I was already in middle school and high school so I don't think I felt this testing malaise like the most recent generation has but, I can already see the effects.
We are teaching yet another generation to memorize and remember just enough to pass a test and then promptly forget. It reminds me of this Calvin & Hobbes strip:

Jenny said...

Shannon, as I am even older than you I don't remember feeling this same way. But watching it in my daughter is starting to drive me crazy.

Beth said...

My middle schooler is in trouble for refusing to take a practice test for the state competency exams. He said that it was a waste of his learning time. Which I think is true, but I also think he doesn't get to pick which assignments he gets to do.

And making up this missed assignment AFTER taking the actual exam gets even more ludicrous. I have proposed letting him write a short essay on the pros and cons of standardized tests instead.

I have long thought our district does too much "teaching to the test" but wasting twice as much time on the tests as necessary (by taking a "practice test" before the real thing) is going further than ever before. I want to support the teachers, but sometimes they make it hard...

Jenny said...

Beth, ugh, those stories are way too common and so painful. I'm so grateful that I moved to teaching first graders so that I don't feel the same pressure about the tests. It's awful for the teachers, too. But what we're doing to kids is unacceptable.