Standardized Testing Making Leaps and Bounds

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In a day and age when standardized testing is getting a bad reputation, sometimes we have to look at what is being done to improve the old and bring it into the future. Today there are Opt Out movements where parents are willingly choosing to not measure the progress their children are making. But what does opting out really do? It threatens a schools funding, while standardized testing may not be winning any popularity contests, they are what help keep our schools running. In this technological age, there are many advances coming to the old standard on standardized testing.

The opt-out movement is putting school at risk of losing access to federal aid. Jack Markell, the former Democratic Governor of Delaware, says that more states should be using their access of addition funds through Every Student Succeeds Acts in order to perform assessment audits which he says no state had yet to take advantage of (qtd. in Doran).

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After a survey of 1,000 teachers in 3 states and the District of Columbia ,Josh Kaufmann, executive director of Teach Plus, says he was shocked by their response of the PARCC test and how they believed it was better than its predecessor ISAT. Kauffman explains that it wasn’t a good test, and that it wasn’t great at measuring students’ progress or critical thinking skills. With 79% of teachers preferring PARCC to ISAT, and in Chicago 89% thought it was better it shows we are progressing and making needed changes (qtd. In Sanchez 1-2).

However, the main argument against standardized testing seems to be that teachers are teaching the test, causing the test to determine curriculum and not the teacher. While too much test preparation and removing non-tested subject from curriculum are indeed the wrong approach, teaching the test can be utilized in a better way. Teaching students the correct knowledge and skills that are needed not only for tests but for life can be beneficial not only to the students but overall test scores (Phelps 2). Some try to think of standardized testing as a competitive sport accusing it of shaming schools when they post results like they are sports scores. While also accusing it of over utilizing rote memorization skills and not using enough critical thinking. (Dixon 1-2). But the new test in the works is taking these notions into consideration and progressing into a better test that can evolve with a student.

Local Chicago Public School Vice Principal and teacher Julie Pienta has seen standardized tests change more than once in the past 10 years, and believes standardized testing is a positive for students and schools alike but believes it’s how the results are used that is putting the test itself into a bad light. With the purpose of the test being to test a wide range of students and hold them to the same standards, which is needed in order to improve instruction in the classroom. Yet, Pienta says the test can’t be the only measure of student’s abilities and that Likewise, the results of one standardized test should not be used in the evaluation of a teacher, school, district or state for the same reasons (Pienta).

Pienta also doesn’t see teaching the test as much as problem as it had been in the past, due to it being too difficult to predict what will be on the test and that the main pressure put on the students doesn’t necessarily come from the test itself but from teachers, adults etc.(Pienta).

It is said that standardized test prep uses 1% of a teacher’s instruction time but its affects are much larger. PARCC results however can come 6 months or more after the test is given, how can you focus on areas that need improvement with such a slow turn around? Maranto equates it to a child caring about a video game if he didn’t know his score for 6 months, who would care? The transparency that standardized testing has provided has let charter schools like KIPP, Harmony, Basis, YES Prep and Great Hearts who are academically succeeding to replace less successful public schools. The success of these charter schools doesn’t come from tests like PARCC, they come from computerized tests like Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test. MAP tests are shorter, easier to administer, results are immediate and cheap costing about $10 a child for three tests. Standardized tests are needed to measure a student’s skills and knowledge since grades can range teacher to teacher, school to school because grades are objective. Grading causes the student to be against the teacher and it can leave students resenting one another but yet with standardized testing it puts them all on one team against the test. This alleviates pressure not only on students but the teacher as well. Standardized testing unites students and teachers in one common goal. The goal to beat the test and beat other school it becomes a team mentality. Standardized testing does more good than bad and is purely a means to collect data for educators to use in order to help students (Maranto 1-3).

PARCC tests have been known to long and very difficult, leading to a number of students not passing. In turn, Illinois wants to make a shorter test with quicker results to better help the students (Editorial Board 1). PARCC comparative results are in and they weren’t great, showing us in 2017 less than 40% of 900,000 students passed reading and math exams. It is said the new test will continue to use year-to-year comparability and again be a better assessment of a student’s progression (Editorial Board 3)

PARCC while having been seen as better than its predecessor ISAT, is possibly on its way out as the Illinois State Board of Education is planning on implementing a new format of testing. The goal of this new test is to receive results in a more timely matter and change the questions on the test depending on how a student answer. This again is showing us that the powers that be see that testing needs to evolve and change in order to continue to be relevant (Rado 1).

In 2015 when Chicago Public Schools tried to combat the PARCC test, resulted in the state threatening hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. When super intendents wrote to the Illinois State Board of Education in 2016, the state listened and the push for change began. The Illinois State Board of Education is looking to create a computer adaptive test. While the revised test will still use Common Core standards and continue to include PARCC questions it will also include new content developed by educators. Illinois is not the state making the move to a more hybrid test, Colorado and Texas are also making changes. New Meridian, a company said to lead the industry in assessment design and development, has landed a 19.6-million-dollar contract to help develop the new test for Illinois, this is a large investment into making the test better for students and schools (Roda 2-3). Assistant Superintendent in Schaumburg, Paul Goldberg says he welcomes shorter tests and how some families are already familiar with computer adaptive testing being used to measure student’s progression and skills (qtd. in Roda 4).

Computer adaptive tests will evolve as a student answers. When questions are answered correctly, the test and questions will progressively get harder and alike if students answer incorrectly the questions get simpler. The goal of the new test is to measure all students and have results almost immediately, this is a large undertaking and requires a lot of work. (Roda 4).

The STREAM program (Science, technology reading, engineering, arts, mathematics) is an experimental program, that submerses students into experiences, because employers are finding a lack of noncognitive skills in graduates. The use of STREAM uses project-based learning to help students for these skills, the students in this program are still required to take standardized test. STREAM is not teaching the test, the purpose of the program was to study and see if participation in such a program would affect scores and achievements on standardized tests. Fifty-seven students took part in the year-long STREAM program, and about 140 students partook in traditional classes. School officials say academic standing was not factored into who was included in the program and the research team was in no way connected to the school. Students who took part in the program said they enjoyed it more than traditional classes and also found it more motivating. The students in the program and students set in the traditional classroom all took the same standardized test ACT. The results showed students in both groups started and finished on the same levels. The differences in scores were insignificant, and the students in the STREAM program had actually scored marginally higher (Scogin et al. 39-56).

The STREAM program shows us teachers do not need to teach the test in order to have successful standardized test results, it also shows that creative curriculum can be implemented and be successful and useful in teaching student’s valuable life skills that they can take with them into the work force. Group projects with in the STREAM program left students feeling les stressed and more proactive and striving to achieve better results. Teaching the test while not necessarily a bad thing, it also isn’t mandatory. Students can learn and grow in a multitude of environments. Standardized testing has gotten a bad reputation through-out the years for various reasons; time spent on test prep, teaching the test, the time it takes to get results and the stagnant nature of the test. Educators are making incredible strides to rectify those problems and others. They are giving students a new test, that will challenge them on a more personalized level, we will see results quicker making it easier for teachers to make adjustments to help students succeed. Standardized testing isn’t the necessary evil it’s been made out to be, yes, it’s needed for badly needed funding, but it can also be a very valuable tool for a student’s achievements.

Works Cited

Aycock, James. Teacher Voice: In Defense of Standardized Testing. SCORE, State Collaborative on Reforming Education, 2014, tnscore.org/in-defense-of-standardized-testing/. Accessed 29 October 2018

Dixon, Bruce. The Testing Emperor Finally Has No Clothes. Education Digest, vol. 83, no. 9, May 2018, pp. 45“50. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=a9h&AN=128750078&site=ehost-live&custid=s8876422.

Doran, Leo. “”The Opt-Out Movement: Civil Disobedience Or Misguided Obstructionism?”” TCA Regional News, 07 Jun. 2017, pp. n/a. SIRS Issues Researcher, sks.sirs.com.

Editorial Board. Is scrapping the PARCC test about helping kids or making Illinois schools look better. Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune, 2018, www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-illinois-parcc-change-20180209-story.html. Accessed 18 October 2018

Maranto, Robert. Testing Patience. Academic Questions, vol. 29, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 299“302.

Phelps, Richard P. “”Teach to the Test?”” Wilson Quarterly, 2011, pp. 38-42. SIRS Issues Researcher, sks.sirs.com. Accessed 23, October 2018.

Pienta, Julie. Thoughts on standardized testing. Received by Nicole Tetrev, 18, October 2018

Rado, Diane. PARCC pushback prompts Illinois to remake controversial test for 3rd-8th graders. Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune, 2018, chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-no-more-parcc-20180207-story.html. Accessed 18 October 2018

Sanchez, Melissa. More Prep for PARCC test, but better than ISAT. Chicago Reporter, Chicago Reporter, 2015, www.chicagoreporter.com/teachers-more-prep-for-parcc-test-but-better-than-isat/. Accessed 23, October 2018

Scogin, Stephen C., et al. Learning by Experience in a Standardized Testing Culture: Investigation of a Middle School Experiential Learning Program. Journal of Experiential Education, vol. 40, no. 1, Mar. 2017, pp. 39“57. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/1053825916685737.

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