The advertisement placed by the Fernie District Teachers Association prompted me to do some research about standardized testing in public schools. Parents should assess the pros and cons of this kind of test before deciding whether or not their child should participate.
This type of testing is important for a variety of reasons: 1) it allows parents to see how their child is doing in the classroom, in an objective light, compared to others in their class; 2) standardized testing allows students progress to be tracked over the years.
When students take the same type of test every few years, we can see if a student is improving, losing ground academically, or staying about the same.
Since all students in a grade are taking the same test, standardized tests provide an accurate comparison across groups. (For example, this makes it easy to see how boys are performing as compared to girls in a particular school or district.) Great improvements have been made with regards to test bias, leading to more accurate assessments and comparisons.
Also, we can discern how our schools are doing performance-wise when compared to other schools in our area and across the country. This should not be something that the teachers association is afraid of. Let’s say the schools did not fare well in these exams.
This could be an opportunity to work on certain programs in the school or perhaps prompt a review of faculty. A poor ranking for a school could be looked at as an opportunity rather than something that is shameful.
This type of assessment loses potency when the exams become a way for schools to compete, rather than appraise. This is where we run into problems. When schools set aside regular curriculum to “teach to the test” that’s where teachers and children become stressed. Perhaps if the school faculty refocused on the true reason for these exams, there would be less of this pressure. I ask all schools to raise your academic levels because you want to inspire your community, not just to beat the next guy.
Additional benefits of standardized testing are: 1) They report on students’ progress, 2) They help to diagnose students’ strengths and weaknesses, 3) They help to place students in special programs, 4) They certify student achievement (i.e. promoting students from grade to grade).
Standardized tests have been called “biased”, “unfair”, “uncreative” and other but really they are a part of the modern academic experience and I feel children should get used to the rigors of this type of testing. Each year in grade 10 on, kids are asked to take standardized tests in a variety of subjects, so standardized tests are indeed used to rank students and determine part of their future. Perhaps if they are familiar with this style of test at this point, it won’t be as intimidating. In order to prepare students for these exams, they review with their teachers. Part of the preparation for standardized testing may give teachers guidance to help them determine what to teach students and when to teach it. The result could be less wasted instructional time and a simplified way of timeline management.
I think the key to the success of the standardized tests is balance. Those in charge need to step back and take into account both the good and the bad things about testing and find a way to help students succeed without causing them too much stress.
For better or worse, standardized testing is here to stay. I believe the key is to use the test results as a guide for teachers, parents, and students. They should also be used, in a limited capacity, to assess how well schools are doing. Standardized testing should be used to help measure a school’s success, but it should be one assessment among several that determines whether a school’s students are progressing or not.
I have a lot of respect for the public and independent school systems in Fernie and I think Fernie Secondary is a great place for kids to learn, strive and achieve whatever they wish to pursue. I think an ad like the one that was placed in the paper by the Fernie District Teachers Association sends the wrong message to the community. It strikes a tone that IDES and FSS aren’t up to the challenge of standardized testing. I think they are!
Francesca ter Poorten