20 May 2012

High-Stakes Testing and Video Games

2011-2012 is a big year in our state because it’s the year students are assessed on the Common Core State Standards, standards which are intended to up the ante and prepare students for college and careers.  Our state worked with testing vendor, Pearson, to develop new reading, writing, and mathematics standardized assessments.  Last week’s blog post referenced my youngest son’s feelings of anxiety and desire to “chicken out” of the test.   The testing issue weighed heavily on me all week as conversations regarding the stresses of high-stakes testing continued.

With a large grin and sparking eyes, my eleven year old asked if he could have time to talk with me about the test when I finished talking with his younger brother.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could take another conversation that might rip out my heart with sadness if we had to discuss the way the test made him feel defeated. 

But this conversation was different, instead of being distraught over the test; Ethan wanted to use it to his advantage.  “Mom, you know how you are always telling us research says… well, guess what happened on today’s state test—I actually knew vocabulary because of that video game I’ve been playing.”  Since the video game is set in Medieval times, Ethan accessed his prior knowledge while reading the passage and responding to a question about the meaning of the word outskirts.  His argument then—he should be permitted extra time to play video games since it helped him on the test. 

My husband and I make parenting decisions based on facts, discussions, and a little bit of parent intuition.   We know well what research says about spending too much time playing video games and watching television.  However, I am also a parent and an educator who understands new literacies. So while the state test may be traditional and lacking in an effort to assess new literacies, my son found a way to leverage new literacies in response to the traditional state reading assessment.