- Bringing Project Based Learning to our Classroom - August 12, 2018
- Keep the Engagement Alive: Start the Year with Purpose - August 5, 2018
- It's Our Fault: A Teacher's Confession - March 18, 2018
- Keeping Your Teaching Real: A Teacher's Role - March 11, 2018
- Sketch Notes in the Elementary Classroom - February 15, 2017
- Teach From the Heart - February 9, 2017
- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
I think it is important to stay informed and read information about education and learning. The only way to grow is to read about things you are not doing and things you may not agree with on the surface. I have been following a blog on parents opting out of testing. I did not go into education because of testing or for the purpose of testing. I am a parent watching my own child test. I do not agree with some of the practices in place. I do, however, test my classroom children for three reasons.
I am a big believer in differentiation. In my classroom you will see students sitting on the floor, standing at a tall table, and others working together. It is just as important for me to push the student who is reading 3 grades above level as it is to guide the student reading 2 levels below. In order to be able to meet the varying needs in my fourth grade room I use formative assessments. I give quick, short, little "tests" that allow me to see into a students learning. These tests are frequent and happen so the students are just showing me their knowledge, not being "tested". This information is used to guide my pacing, my lessons and help me focus my limited energy and time where it is most useful. Without these tests I would not be able to differentiate and my students would be in a cookie cutter one size fits all classroom. Formative assessments are one of the most important tools I use.
I remember studying for unit tests in HS. It was always done with my boyfriend discussing things over the corded phone or in one of our living rooms. We reviewed information from an entire unit or semester including vocabulary, formulas, dates, and any other important information. This summative assessment is still part of teaching today. There comes a point in a unit when students should be able to show mastery. This can be done through a unit project, a final paper or a traditional test. The information gained shows what students have mastered. This is also a reflective part of teaching as teachers can see how the overall class is performing. If there are holes, this tells me I did not do my job effectively in that area and it give me a chance to help students continue any learning that was missed. Summative assessments allow teachers to see how units have been learned.
I remember when I was in first grade we took tests and filled in little bubbles. I hated the portion that said "choose the word that is spelled incorrectly." This was challenging to me and I would cross out two that were probably correct and then have a 50/50 shot at getting the right one. Many years later I began teaching first grade and there were pictures of spools and wheat fields and students were being tested on their vocabulary based on these pictures. My students were more than this test. I was required, however, to give it.
While the tests have changed, we still give standardized tests. The Iowa Test of Basic Skills has been replaced with the Kansas Assessment. My kids are still more than this test. It does, however, allow the state to see a snapshot of each school. Data can be used to see the schools that are meeting the standards and those who need assistance. I decide to do that with as much support as I can provide and a positive attitude for my students. I do not agree with every law in our land, but part of life is following the rules. I am not in charge of what decisions are made from this data. There are many things that happen inside of a classroom that are beyond a teacher's control. Standardized tests are a small part of what my students know, but I am required to give them.
My classroom is an open learning community. We explore with mixing cornstarch and water to create potions which we then write about for creative expression. We talk about math and ideas and how we solve problems. We laugh and we dance. We read and we write. It is a learning environment made up of 21 different learners. Testing allows me a glimpse into each learner. Using formative assessments I am able to adjust their learning, lessons and pace. Using summative assessments I am able to see the whole class picture. Using state assessments I am able to see how we match other districts. There will never be a perfect system. Testing continues to be altered changed in the format as well as the way it is implemented. My job as an educator is to always focus on my students and do what is best for THEM.
As the year starts and you learn about your students, look at them as a whole. Use testing to grow together and gather information that is important. Educators know there is more to a child than testing. If you have questions, ask the administration and talk to the legislators. The people outside of the classroom are making decisions about testing. Others are deciding what to use, what to test, and what to do with the results. Teachers are going into their rooms daily to teach, to love, and to do what is right for their children. Testing is a small piece of a very large puzzle we call learning.