“Believing we can improve schooling with more tests is like believing you can make yourself grow taller by measuring your height.” Robert Schaeffer
This past week our students took our states summative tests (End of Grade- E.O.G) and what a long week it was. I hated seeing the anxiety level of the students because as much as we told them we just wanted them to try their best; they knew these tests were more than that. This really got me thinking about what I would want testing to look like in my ideal elementary school.
In my ideal school, I would have all the teachers and students keep a working portfolio (even more appealing…paperless portfolio)! A students knowledge should not be based on just one day. I know I am a ‘bad’ test taker but that doesn’t mean I am not smart or that I don’t understand. Portfolios would eliminate that misconception that a standardized test gives. In the portfolios, I along with the students would place artifacts that showed growth in an area/subject. The artifacts could be common assessments, projects or presentations, anything the student or teacher wanted. I would also have the student keep their S.M.A.R.T goals in their portfolio as well. When the I conferenced with the student on their progress and goals, I would keep the notes from the ongoing conferences. I believe that having portfolios like this would also make the students more accountable for their learning. Another advantage of portfolios is that it is differentiated and teachers don’t have to ask all students to turn in the same kinds of work in order to show mastery.
In my ideal school, I would not have any timed tests. We are starting to get away from timing math facts in schools because we see the link between students anxiety and hating math. We also see that rote math skills does not prove understanding of math concepts, so what makes us think that it is any different with other subjects. I can easily memorize vocabulary for a test on a certain week but ask me the week after and I won’t remember the meanings. But if I apply the vocabulary words to something I have created such as a project, I will more likely remember the definitions. I would still give formal and informal assessments to guide my instruction based on the data. I would make common assessments one-on-one. This would allow the students to explain their thinking. Unlike multiple choice assessments, one-on-one would allow teachers to assess more than one objective at a time. In addition to this, I make sure the assessment were authentic.
Also in my ideal school, I would have the professional learning community (PLC’s/grade levels) meet and discuss students work, portfolios and common assessments weekly. During these meetings I, along with the team, would reflect on the rubrics and assessments we have created for the projects etc that are going in the students portfolios. We would also discuss students growth and if there was no growth interventions that we could put in place.
This is how testing would look in my ideal school, how about yours?