I just spent the weekend in Los Angeles talking with several different people at a conference. The topic of teaching and testing came up. One gentleman who is a local teacher said his school beta tested one of the Smarter Balance Tests.
He noted many sections presented information but the questions did not use that information. He also stated that many of the questions used methods that are not normally taught in class.
He wondered why we teach box and whisker plots or stem and leaf plots because he's never seen them used in real life. He worked in industry before he became a teacher and in all that time, he's only ever used histograms. These two observations lead to someone who spent 40 years working for the FAA add most people are not required to know all the material in their head. They are allowed to work with others, look up information, or check to make sure they have it set up right.
It was acknowledged that tests are used to check for a person's basic knowledge in the case of a person who wants to become a lawyer, CPA, or Nurse but once they are done and have their credentials, they don't have to take the test again unless they move to another state. Yet we are now testing students every year.
I hate standardized testing for several reasons.
1. Many places use only the results from standardized testing to determine if a school district is progressing nicely.
2. Special education students are held to the same standards as those without a learning disability. Even with accommodations, students may not have the knowledge to pass these types of tests.
3. Many questions are not culturally appropriate. I've seen questions showing a student who rides a bus to the mall to shop for a coat. There are no buses in my village and their clothing is usually ordered from a place online. They do not relate to this.
4. A student's results vary from day to day depending on so many outside factors such as are they sick? Did they get enough sleep the night before? Have they regularly attended school? Is their understanding of the English language good enough to understand what is being asked?
5. Results from the standardized tests are sometimes used to determine where students need improvement. Unfortunately, the standards are being tested vary from year to year so what was tested last year may not be the same ones tested this year.
6. Multiple choice math questions for the most part only tell us which questions students got correct, the questions do not tell me what part of the process the student still has issues with. It doesn't tell me which problems they don't even know how to do.
If I am going to use standardized test results to help determine what I teach, I'd rather use them them as one part of results I use. I spend time in my class teaching students ways to take standardized tests such as elimination, underlining key words, etc. I even work on teaching appropriate vocabulary such as Justify, Elimination, etc. They have to understand what they are being asked to figure out the first step in solving problems.