It’s springtime, which means the flowers are beginning to bloom, and teachers all over the country are preparing for “testing season.” Truth be told, teachers prepare for the testing season all year long. Springtime is the finale of tests, and it’s stressful for all parties involved.
Many have asked why there are standardized tests. Or are they necessary? What could be done differently? There are no one-size-fits-all answers because there is no one-size-fits-all student, and that’s the problem.
Is testing necessary? Yes. Data is needed, and often, to be able to measure student success. How else can academic growth or lack thereof be measured and intervention be determined? Data is necessary, and it is typically gathered through testing.
However, there are many ways to test a student, and there is massive room for growth and opportunity for everyone.
Through-year tests have been piloted in some states already. The concept is just how it sounds; students take tests throughout the year, which is typical anyway. The difference lies within the word “summative.” Instead of taking a series of tests throughout the year and then one extensive state assessment or performance test, the students’ results of their scores from each test would instead be calculated into a summative score, eliminating an annual state test in the springtime.
Although standardized tests are commonplace, they only happen sometimes. Instead, they may be administered at the beginning and end of a year or even once a year. Proponents of alternatives also believe that more tests may be the answer.
However, adding more tests into the mix will translate into reducing the stakes of each test. Students can ease their stress levels by doing so because the outcome won’t mean so much.
Like in the job market, prospective candidates submit portfolios to showcase their work. This could be an option for K-12 students as well. Portfolios can be composed of individual and group projects, depending on the age and grade level. Teachers can assign projects year-round, and students can have the freedom to choose which projects they believe depicts their best work to include in their portfolio.
This way, students can create portfolios and have some agency over their work. It also allows students to focus on their interests while being held to academic standards. Students also gain from sharpening their presentation and communication skills in developing and sharing a portfolio.
Researchers consider performance tasks to be accurate measures of standards. This makes sense, as the tasks are extended performances of student work that show multiple stages of their thought process and how they arrived at the solution.
Students need to learn more than the specific academic content; they develop various skills in completing complex tasks. Skills such as presenting and defending their work, leading or participating in individual or group projects, and performing other multifaceted tasks are essential.
There are two approaches to designing tests based on performance tasks.
- Standardize the tasks, meaning all students perform the same functions.
- Standardize the scoring rubric. Meaning students perform different tasks that are scored using a standard scoring tool.
As testing options continue to be developed and re-defined, remember that all parties need to know “the why” when it comes to testing. The validity, reliability, comparability, and why they matter are critical questions in assessments, regardless of their form.
Written by: Meredith Biesinger