Out Of Focus

Recently an administrator complimented me on all the innovative ways I incorporate technology in my classroom. The administrator then asked how that will translate on this year’s (new) state standardized test. My answer, “I don’t care. I’m looking at the bigger picture,” was most likely not what said administrator was expecting or wanted to hear.

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by dkalo: http://flickr.com/photos/dkalo/2902351751

Our education system is out of focus. There will NEVER be successful educational reform in our country until we stop focusing on a test scores (every single year) and start leveling the playing field. Yes, poorer communities need more money because they need more resources. They face greater hurdles. Taking money away from poor communities because they perform worse on tests is like being surprised that you sprained your ankle in a field full of holes. Neither makes sense. Spend money to fix the field, no sprain. Spend money to help fill gaps in poor performing schools, closes educational gaps.

So back to the conversation I had with the administrator. I went on to further explain that what I am teaching the students goes beyond being successful on this year’s test. They are learning to THINK for themselves, ask QUESTIONS, work out problems with others (like the real world), be CREATIVE and seamlessly INTEGRATE TECHNOLOGY, with purpose. 

I challenge my students to learn more than what’s in a text book. They are expected to give presentations (large, small, and everything in between), explore new tools (low tech and high tech), talk, take ownership over their learning, and so much more. Many of those expectations can’t be measured on a standardized test.

So how does all that translate to a standardized test? Yup, still don’t care. How does that translate to their success in life; that, I have high expectations for. And from what I’m hearing from the middle school teachers, they are succeeding.

Real World Vs. Standardized Tests

Today began our Second Trimester Benchmark Assessments. Fortunately, I am in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom. This means that my students are able to take the assessment online. My students work online daily, so this is no big deal – or so I thought.

The students had 1 open ended question to answer. As I was checking them, I noticed that two boys, who sat next to each other, had the same wording for their answer. My immediate thought was, “Oh great, they cheated.” That wasn’t really the case.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Enokson

When I spoke with them, I asked why they both had the same answer. One boy, honestly answered, “We were helping each other.”

And that’s when it hit me. With or without Common Core, we still have a disconnect between how students learn, and how we ‘record’ their knowledge.

Common Core has students working and collaborating together. Common Core encourages students to problem solve in groups, using technology to assist them.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Laurie Sullivan

And then what do we do? We (not just my district) then decide that in order to show us their knowledge, they are to take a test, on their own – in isolation. I’m sure I’m not the only one that sees this disconnect.

How is it that we expect ALL students to do well when we teach, and they learn, in one way; then have them take a test in isolation? No wonder my students thought nothing of helping each other on the Benchmark Assessment, it’s what they do daily.

Here’s a crazy idea: Let’s ditch the tests altogether. Yup, class tests, district assessments, state, national, PARCC, and SBAC. As a nation we need to focus on learning, problem solving skills, collaboration, and teamwork. THESE are the skills that employers are looking for, not can someone take a test on their own.

What employers want








Credit: Dr. Beverly Young, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Academic #ccttcd2014