It’s that time again in Wisconsin, time for our yearly standardized test on which schools and students alike get graded. Mind you, we test for 5th grade in October after only having taught them for 2 months. Mind you we actually don’t get the results until February at the earliest, at which point we are then supposed to adjust our teaching according to said results. Of course, all of this will change with the advent of the new test that is being created but that wont be of another year or more.
So why this post from a known anti-standardized testing teacher? Well, because I wonder if my opposition to these tests and refusal to make them a big deal in the eyes of my students are hurting their test results? I don’t give them pep talks, I don’t tell them how it can affect their lives, or mine for that matter. I don’t tell them to do their very best because they should want to show everyone how much they know. I do the practice one so that they know what the format is but I don’t teach testing strategies for days or weeks. I don’t teach them what the test makers are probably looking for. Instead we continue with our 5th grade exploration of learning and what makes us curious. We spend time discussing and pushing our thinking. We make time for genius hour and reflection. We make time to cover the things we should in a meaningful manner that suits us as learners. But still..
I do tell them that they are a snapshot of that moment in time. I do tell them that they should try to figure it out as best as they can but that it is not something to be stressed about. I know their abilities, I know their strengths, and more importantly I know how to support their goals. Sure, we have to have silence during the test and no one can leave for the bathroom, but when they feel they have given it their best shot, then they are free to read or to unwind.
Yet I cannot help but wonder should I be taking time to teach them better test strategies? Should I stop what we are doing so they can spend time becoming better test takers? Am I robbing them of a skill they need to “survive” the rest of their education? Should I be focusing on the gravity of this test and make them aware of how much it determines for our school? Would they score better if they knew how much the test meant? At this point, I am not sure anymore. Should my personal beliefs be allowed to influence the way I teach?