Standardized Testing Reflection

This week we began investigating the role of assessment in education through various readings including our core text for the course, Classroom assessment: what teachers need to know by James Popham. We were asked to consider, “What standardized tests have you completed? …and… Did taking any one (or all) of these help you demonstrate evidence of learning? Which one?”

In addition to the annual CTBS tests I was subjected to in my elementary years, I have taken the SAT and most recently, Praxis I to round out my experience with standardized testing. All of them provided some evidence of learning. All the tests were effective at measuring information that I had attained in the time-period prior to taking the test. However, at this point many years later, I barely can recall even the style of question from the SAT, and I am aware recent iterations look very different from the test I took in the early 1990’s. For that reason, (possibly thankfully) I don’t believe there is a convenient, direct comparison between my secondary school testing and those that students are subjected to today.

Standardized testing provides a means to quantify student and educator performance in a format accessible for common evaluation and interpretation. In one way, standardized testing can ‘level a playing field’ both for students and educators by pushing everyone through a uniform filter. However, standardized tests cannot accurately account for the diversity of learners or the inequity in educational environments.

With the adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) the ‘leveling of the playing field’ will begin to be represented nationwide. Further, CCSS brings greater rigor to nearly 2/3rd of the States who have adopted these new broadly implemented standards (Popham, 2014). However, CCSS does not resolve the issue of the varying interpretations of standards or the differences (and often unfortunate disparities) in the materials or strategies used to implement standards based instruction (D’Agostino, Welsh & Corson, 2007).

In the county where I am teaching 8th grade Science, this year my students will take both PARCC tests in addition to the MSA Science test. The MSA is a remnant of the NCLB legislation that has not yet reached its expiration. This amount of testing I believe is preposterous, especially in the context that these tests will provide limited to no direct benefit to my students achievement of their educational goals. In this context, my students will not benefit from the guided decision-making purported by Popham as a primary benefit of assessment as they will have all dispersed to various high schools with no direct relationship with their previous experience to facilitate modifications or adaptations to their learning (Popham, 2014).

D’Agostino, J.V., Welsh, M.E., & Corson, N.M. (2007). Instructional sensitivity of a state’s standards-based assessment. Educational Assessment, 12(1), 1-22.

Popham, W. James. (2014). Classroom assessment: what teachers need to know. Pearson Education, Inc.

6 thoughts on “Standardized Testing Reflection

  1. Hi Christine,

    I like how you mentioned that adopting CCSS into standardized testing serves as a means to “level the playing field,” but it does not provide a solution towards issues in varying interpretations of standards of the differences in the materials or strategies utilized to implement standard based instructions. I think finding a balance with standards that both “level the playing field” and take those previously mentioned issues into account can be tricky and tedious. Do you know or have an idea of a certain way that these issues can be resolved, while maintaining a leveled playing field on these standardized tests? Even slightly altering material to change interpretations to aide some students can disrupt the equality and unbiased components of standardized testing.

    • I don’t simply because I think standardized testing is a flawed attempt to provide research-based decision-making to education systems and the tests pose some significant ethical challenges of their own.

      Achieving a level playing field for students cannot be done through assessment, because assessments do not help students achieve. We need to focus our effort toward leveling playing fields on the economic structures of LEAs by mitigating the disabling effect of income inequality on our low-income and minority students. We need to shrink education systems so they can be more effective and efficient in their response to change. Policy-makers need to stop being reactive and short-sighted and look toward proactive measures that consider longitudinal research and needs-based analysis through partnerships with higher education and industry to shape education. Standardized assessments have created a diversion from addressing these deeper concerns in the institution of US education systems, and I just don’t see them as a useful tool in creating a fair and just education system.

  2. I am not yet teaching Christine so I always look forward to reading posts by you and the others that are already out there. I agree with you about that being a lot of testing for 8th graders but what I was wondering is if you would prefer to get rid of one or both? Also I have looked into the PARCC because I do not have a lot of experience with it and see that it is administered twice a year, a performance based assessment and then the end of year assessment. Would you think it would be a better idea to just have one?

    • I think it would be better to have none! I think standardized tests primary purpose is for organizational accountability not student achievement. If student performance were really the primary driver, a more effective and less expensive measure for accountability would be to have my students’ 9th grade teachers evaluate their preparedness as a measure of my effectiveness. And I can tell you my students have been pushed through standardized testing throughout their schooling and the results are not only not helpful to me, as their teacher now, they are often misleading and inaccurate in assessing the actual skill levels of students. Thus posing the potential for ‘misdiagnosing’ the students’ learning needs.

  3. Do you think that the common core and PARCC, in their rigor and (in my opinion) dependence on certain sets of materials, do a disservice to low-SES schools? In the common core’s effort to “level the field” do you think they have built the field above the heads of certain schools? Teaching at such a school, I imagine you have many of the same struggles as I do: there are insufficient textbooks that are approved for the curriculum, the textbooks that are available are often horrendously useless; the curriculum guide requires pre- mid- and post-assessments, but the rigor of the curriculum requires the students to learn so much material that it is difficult to build in time for three assessments plus a “real-world task” (project) when there is already not enough time to teach the student what the curriculum wants taught to them.
    Additionally, what are your feelings on the curriculum in general? Do you find it to be accessible?

    • Yes, the low-SES schools are put at a much greater disadvantage. I don’t think CC is inherently above the heads of certain schools, but the structure of many institutions does not allow feasible implementation of CC. We have all those struggles, yes, and add to it our curriculum guide is a county-wide mandatory resource that does not take into account the diversity between schools even within our county. (We have mandates in our curriculum that require technology and materials not accessible to me in our school.) My focus is less on CC right now and more toward Next Generation Science Standards and I actually like a lot of what has been published, but again the breakdown is in implementation and assessment. The standards include the developmentally appropriate rigor and higher order thinking skills, but there is no vehicle to ensure all schools will have the resources (materials, training, etc.) necessary for their effective implementation and so far assessment has created far more burden than benefit to students.

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