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I'm an Associate Professor of English Education. My time is spent preparing to teach, teaching, reading, writing, working with pre-service and practicing teachers, serving on various committees, and trying to keep my office from over flowing into the hallway.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Standardized Tests

I have had the opportunity to volunteer at my daughter's school these past two weeks. Subscribing to the volunteer ideal that it's not what I want to do but what they need me to do, I do what I'm asked, which is how I found myself volunteering to proctor standardized tests. I do not support the use of standardized test as a major decision making factor for funding schools and their teachers. So I was quick to recognize the irony of my position as I sat, passing the time by reading Mark Prensky's book Teaching Digital Natives. In my head I was enacting partnering pedagogy with teacher education students and in professional development workshops. Physically, I was  practicing a banking model of teaching by complicity supervising this test. What a contradiction  I was in!
The testing reality of the public school system is antithetical to the student-centered, passion-driven pedagogy encouraged by writers and researchers such as Prensky, Gee, and Schaefer. Weeks of time at the end of school are spent preparing and testing. In some places, benchmark tests are given every week to assess student's progress. These tests take time and energy. Take a week when there are 5 school days. Assuming that the course or class meets every day, which is not necessarily the norm, a test a week means that there are only 4 instructional days left. However, some teachers spend significant time doing test prep during those 4 days and sometimes use the day after the test is taken to go over the test. This is not teaching. This is assessment-driven drill and skill. Most teachers I know do not like this at all. In fact a teacher recently said to me that she wished parents would do something about this.
I am a parent and a teacher educator and researcher. I am in a perfect position to do something, to raise voices against the tyranny of the test. Yet, I don't. Maybe next year I won't volunteer to proctor. Maybe next year I will say, "I can't support testing by being there to help you with it." But that doesn't seem right to me. They need help, but I'd rather be of help by volunteering to lead an exploratory class. Well, my conscience nags me and surely will not let this rest.
At least it gave me time to read.