A Few Thoughts on Standardized Testing

I know testing can be a hot button topic and everyone has a different opinion and situation. In our state, home school students must take a standardized test every year beginning at age seven.

I have experience with standardized testing as a student, teacher, administrator, and now as a home school mom.

Some folks love them and other people despise them. I happen to fall somewhere in the middle. I believe that there are pros and cons to standardized testing and that a huge part of their usefulness is determined by how the results are used.

Concerns

In a public school setting, the tests are what they call ‘high stakes’. The results can determine if  a student passes or fails, if a teacher keeps her job, funding, and so much more. Everyone involves feels the pressure and stress.  

I have watched gifted students cry because they couldn’t figure out an answer and other students feel like failures because they did not pass that one test. Sometimes those students had made huge gains and other times they just did not perform well under pressure.

In our own home, the tests are not high stakes. My children know that I expect them to do their best but the results are designed to show me what we need to focus on in the year ahead. One of my sons turned seven in April and this was his first year testing. He struggled on several parts because it was above his reading abilities and the testing situation was new.

Limitations

It would have been really easy for him to give up and cry or for me to get upset because he was struggling. I could have waited until his results came back and been upset with him or myself if they were not on ‘grade-level’.

However, I reminded him that I just wanted him to do his best and that we would celebrate completion with ice cream!

Then I took the time to remember that while those test scores can help us to see certain areas of strength and weakness, they don’t tell the whole story.

That test will not tell me that my son loves doing art lessons and is getting better every day. It did not measure the fact that he knows more about raising chickens and pigs than most adults I know. It will not tell you how much he knows about NASA and the space program.

Benefits

Standardized tests can be helpful for giving you an overview of certain skills. One year, it helped me realize that while my older children were several years ahead in reading, I needed to spend more time on punctuation and capitalization.

However, we cannot make them more important than they are. They do not measure everything and should only be one tool that we use to help us guide our instruction and understanding.

If you choose to test or live in a state where testing is required, use the test to help you but make sure that your students know that it does not measure their success or failure. They are so much more than a standardized test.

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