I’ve hoped that I might persuade some students to participate as guest bloggers. Many thanks to Suzie Rhodes, who sent me her thoughts on testing.
I asked Suzie (pictured below) to tell me a little about herself, and here’s her reply:
Well, I’m a sophomore in high school, play the violin with a number of groups, and I’m a Venturer. Kind of an overachiever in school, but not so much about grades as taking a lot of challenging classes. I like dogs, Doctor Who, and rappelling. Not much else to say.
Actually, she has much more to say, and I found her perspective thoughtful, persuasive and reassuringly balanced.
Since you said you were interested in student viewpoints on almost anything, I think I’ll give some insight on how I feel about testing.
State testing is coming up soon, so it’s got a spot in the front of my mind right now. All the teachers are starting to give us the reviews and test prep for the state tests, and it bugs me that so much weight is put on these tests because I don’t think it’s possible for a test to be an accurate representation of what we’ve learned. The classic test, answering a list of questions, doesn’t prove that you can do anything other than take a test. I mean, half of the questions on any given test are likely to have their answer in the phrasing of another question, math tests being the exception to this. And math tests have their own problems (pun intended). If it’s multiple choice you don’t even have to know how to solve the problem, all you have to do is plug in the answers.
But that’s not to say that tests are useless. I read an article on sciencedaily.com that gives evidence that tests improve learning. They help you remember more info for a longer time. That makes sense. Everyone knows that you’re going to remember the problems you missed on the test. It’s almost a law of nature. (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101014144235.htm, if you want to read it.) And I’ve always preferred tests to assignments. They take less time, and you rarely actually have to pay attention the rest of class because you just prepare before the test or review afterwards.
I’m not alone in this. Look at my English class. Our teacher asked whether we’d prefer to have a final project or a test, and the answer was almost unanimously in favor of the test. I think that the only reason tests have prevailed so long as the primary measure of student learning at the higher level is because the other methods aren’t as concrete. Tests can give absolute, non-negotiable scores. Scoring on pretty much anything else is a matter of opinion. It’s like what they teach in science class. It’s easier to measure quantity (or anything else with numbers) rather than quality. It’s just too subjective otherwise.
And that’s where we run into problems. We’re trying to measure the quality of our education, but quality is an opinion, not a measurement or some other kind of number. And the government isn’t willing to change something as time-honored as testing, and I can’t even think up a reasonable alternative to testing for evaluating students. So I’m not going to fault them for testing. It makes sense for their needs. But I don’t think that they’ll ever be able to measure something qualitative in numbers, and that’s why everyone is running into such problems with their attempts to measure a school’s success.
Any other students out there who would like to weigh in? Parents? I love the teacher and administrator comments, but I’d love to hear from some of education’s other stakeholders.