Wednesday, October 28, 2015

None Of The Above

To be completely honest, I don't know if my son would be going to school at the college of his choice if it were not for standardized tests. For any other limitations he may or may not have experienced as a student in our public education system, he could take a test. Those number two pencils and bubble sheets were his friend. His struggles in the classroom were primarily based on his seeming inability to turn assignments in on time. The information was in his head, but getting that into some sort of recognizable form was done primarily through that somewhat suspect tool of modern education, the multiple choice.
I have spent years coaching students to take the pressure off sitting down with that test booklet and blank scantron. I tell them that the best thing about taking a multiple choice test is that the makers have given them the answer. Sure, you have to figure out which one of the four or five choices is the correct one, but it's there. It's a gift, right? Unless you happen to be one of those nervous types who starts to freeze up when they sit down in that way-too-quiet room. Or maybe they are the apathetic sort who wants to get done quick because there is a word search waiting for them if they make some crazy pattern out of the dots on the paper in front of them. Some will tell you that there is a discernible path those darkened circles make, others will tell you, "When in doubt, pick C." That was my son. I guess I can't really argue with that.
But our President might. He is suggesting that we, as educators, should take a step back from this form of assessment. "Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble," Mister Obama said in a video released on Facebook. "So we're going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we're not obsessing about testing." He wants to impose a two percent limit on the amount of time students are taking standardized tests in class. At home, in their spare time? Go crazy. Take as many as you'd like.
But if they aren't taking tests, how will we know which kids win? Maybe we could ask them to talk about what they learned. To each other. Maybe they'll understand it even better. We'll see.

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