Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Testing Week: Thoughts From a Tired Walker

Starting this morning schools in New Jersey commenced with HSPA Testing. For the next three mornings students will be required to sit for several hours worth of testing. I'm sure most if not all schools are like mine and had to create a special testing schedule to accommodate the state mandated exam. It is a grueling process for students who have to sit for hours of testing and after a grabbing some food, attend afternoon classes. While not as taxed as students, educators still experience the burden of the exam through proctoring and maintaining a secure testing environment. As an administrator my assignment was to maintain calm on the third floor of our building and for three hours continuously walked the hall. Not exactly riveting.

As the mileage accrued, I could not stop thinking about why do we go through this mandated testing process. Really why are our kids taking the HSPAs? I pose this question not from a critical perspective but more as a query into the advantages of submitting students to this particular battery of exams.

As someone who believes that there is a need to construct assessments that evaluates competencies such as critical thinking, problem solving and creativity, I question benefits gained from state mandated testing. Take as a case study standards promoted by the National Council of Teachers of English or the Partnership for 21st Century Skills or proficiencies such as those articulated by Tony Wagner. These standards/proficiencies are a reflection of skills privileged in today's world. I would think a focus of schools should be preparing students to be successful in the immediate, short and long term. At times, the long term piece is dismissed. Too much attention is paid to the immediate and short term (college) and the big picture of how a student develops is lost.

I could be wrong, but having taught both in New Jersey (HSPA) and New York (Regents) I failed to see true value in tests that were administered. I certainly welcome a conversation around the value of HSPA Testing. It will give me some things to consider during my morning walks.