Why Do Teachers Think Testing Is Unfair?

I am a strong believer in standardized tests.

This is That Very Picture of Enthusiasm You've Heard About

I want an objective measurement of how each of my students is doing. That is the best way for me to discover their weaknesses and mine, so that I can shore up both.

I want to know how my teaching compares to the teaching of my peers—if someone else is doing a better job at teaching a topic, I will run to that teacher to learn how they’re doing it. Teachers want to help their students.

I especially want objective evidence of the great work I do!

Some teachers will tell me “Oh, I don’t pay any attention to tests. I know how my kids are doing, and that’s how I grade them.”

Some teachers just can’t face how little impact they’re having. Some would rather mistrust test results than accept that many inner-city students don’t learn very much at all because their un-parenting has very effectively taught them to ignore or disrespect the adult world.

Then, there’s also this:

Teachers have seen too many tests of suspect quality. These focus on picayune skills, use confusing wording, or have errors that remain uncorrected despite multiple teacher requests.

  • Skills tests should gradually progress in challenge through the year as students’ skills presumably increase. Instead, our school saw District-designed reading test scores rise, fall, rise, then fall. Which is more likely: That all students’ skills rose and fell at exactly the same times of year, or that the tests were poorly-designed?
  • One-fourth of the questions on one Math test were about prime numbers–fascinating to mathematicians, but absolutely non-essential until calculus.  Shouldn’t elementary years focus on the Big Four (+ – x /) and whether a student can apply these to realistic situations, before worrying about prime numbers?
  • On one District test, our students were supposed to find two prepositional phrases in the sentence He had to go to the store. Good luck. There is only one preposition.
  • Kids don’t reed gud nowadays, and their vocabularies are teeny. Math word problems are too often written too obtusely for today’s children. Why not use age-friendly “kid-speak”? The goal in Math learning is not to simultaneously challenge vocabulary and syntax, is it?

    And typical unit conversion questions use dimes, dimes, dimes, then ask for the answer in pennies. No problem, except that many adults, much less children, miss such switcheroos when reading a lengthy question. Why not bold that word “pennies“, or just say right out “Don’t forget to convert your answer to pennies from dimes.”?

    Adult-Speak Equivalent:

    “Initially having four of the above items, purchase a 25-cent gumball, and, by non-chemical means, transform your change to different decimal coinage, each coin of which has a value one-tenth as great as the original. Select the appropriate combination of coins and denomination from the choices shown below.

    So, stop blaming teachers for mistrusting standardized tests.

    I was in the minority. When I was a teacher, with every test, I analyzed which questions were missed by most students and planned my new teaching around that. But then, I is a nerd. And my extreme efforts cost me time and my health and, in part, my family.

    But I was paid less than any newly-hired high-school city garbage collectors lacking high school diplomas. That made it all worthwhile. 🙂
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  1. There is a lot of truth in much of what you have written in this post and the others I’ve read on your teaching experience. Where to begin would take me almost as long as I’ve been at the job. The same errors are repeated constantly, ideas are rehashed with name changes but vaunted as new, much of what is expected to be taught has no apparent value and those who decide on the curriculum, I am now suspecting, are seeking to keep most of the population semi-literate.
    I have huge sympathy for NQTs who are expected now to teach without having had direction in how to do so. The number of newly qualified teachers bemoaning how useless their four years at university were in preparing them for the classroom grows with each year. One young teacher I worked with said she burst into tears on her first day when the depute outlined what was expected of her. There are so many faults in the system here in the UK and, by the sounds of it, in the US.
    Scotland adopted a ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ which, in theory, is wonderful. It has major stengths in its tenets and philosophy but the powers that be cannot resist meddling.
    Your experience in Special Ed could be recounted up and down the length of this country too. No one wants to take action. Keep the lid on and babysit.
    What a way to run an education system. But then, it’s pretty typical of the way many countries are run. What’s that joke? How do you grow mushrooms? Keep them in the dark and feed them shit.
    You can see you’ve hit something of a spot with me. Sorry for the rant. :/


    • You owe no apology to ME. We can both mount the same soapbox and rant together, but we’ll need some sort of protection for the backsplash of our combined windfacing rant-spittle.

      Liked by 1 person


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