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Greg Farr

David, Outstanding Post! The entire testing issue needs to be a topic of wide-spread discussion and debate.

There are 175 days of instruction in our district calendar this year. Of those 175 days, according to our 2006-2007 All Testing Calendar, 123 of them have some type of testing scheduled for at least one grade level or category of students.

Granted, this includes benchmark testing, field testing, and numerous tests other than the state-mandated TAKS, but look closely at that number!

Here’s a slightly different perspective: There are only 52 days in the year when it could be stated that “100% of the students in our district are engaged in instructional activities today that do not include some type of testing”. (!!!)

Neil Rochelle

Dave......Bravo! Cathartic to express your well thought out, educationally sound opinion isn't it? I would just on your soap box any day of the week. I do believe in benchmarks, I do believe in formative and summative assessments. I can even buy the accountability of 'high stakes testing' as you put it. What I can't buy is any "testing" that doesn't result in data analysis that is used to monitor and adjust instruction so that students "learn" what it is they are supposed to learn. If each question is aligned with a performance indicator and that performance indicator is identified and students are provided with the proper instruction, I'm O.K..

My issue is three-fold. First, I'm not convinced that the performance indicators truly represent the content students should be learning. Most states have not looked at the 'standards' since their inception. New York is just now talking about taking a new look at their standards (it has been over 10 years since they were released). My second issue is that State Assessment Schedule is such that results are rarely received by districts in time to do anything about poor performance until the next school year. So much for immediate feedback!

Lastly, which I believe is a crime to overlook is assessment of the one thing we hear from higher ed, employers and classroom teachers as the number one skill needed for success: critical thinking. We assume that it is through imparting 'content' that critical thinking will develop. We rarely teach it and we certainly don't assess it in a valid and reliable fashion. The reason given....we haven't found a way to measure it. What a sophisticated response for one of the most important skills schools should be teaching. If anyone has found a way to assess critical thinking, I would love to hear about it!
How do I really feel? Am I worried about what the teachers in my district think? I'm to the point that if we need to "test" for the sake of NCLB, test. Then be done with it. Teachers should foster learning following a curriculum filled with knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century.

Scott McLeod

Neil, as you can imagine, educational researchers have been trying to measure 'critical thinking' for decades now. I don't live in this area of academia, but quick Google and ERIC searches pull up a plethora of documents.

I thought this UMUC document did a thoughtful job of defining 'critical thinking':

http://tinyurl.com/2uaaqa

Among the many commercial critical thinking assessments are the California Critical Thinking Skills Test, the Cornell Critical Thinking Skills Test (levels X and Z), the Ennis-Weir Critical Thinking Essay Test, the Judgment: Deductive Logic and Assumption Recognition assessment, the New Jersey Test of Reasoning Skills, the Ross Test of Higher Cognitive Processes, the Test of Enquiry Skills, the Test of Inference Ability in Reading Comprehension, and the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal. As a non-psychologist, I have no idea how to tell which of these are more appropriate than others.

Mark Stock

You must admit - if our profession had a previous culture of public reporting and accountability with the proper analyzing of soft and hard data and a mindset in every building of continuous progress - this whole testing mania might not have been thrust upon us. That may be our fault in part. Having said that...

As it stands now - NCLB has thrust bubble mania upon us. Until schools become adept at collecting, analyzing and reporting a variety of data - including standardized and locally developed data
(that actually represents the curriculum taught in the school!) we aren't going to see much change.

It's easy to throw a standardized test out there and pretend to measure something with a computer generated printout - what's not so easy to measure is what teachers AREN'T teaching and what students AREN'T learning as a result of over focusing on the tests.

Unfortunately, I believe the future of our nation rests upon what we AREN'T doing while we test prep.


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