28 October 2012

Here Come the Test Scores--My Hopes and Fears

In my state people are awaiting the public release of standardized test scores this week; students in Kentucky were the first to be tested over the Common Core State Standards last spring. Officials across the state have been warning the public of the potential results because the tests were new, not comparable to previous tests, and based on much more rigorous college and career ready standards.

If you’ve been reading my blog since its creation ten months ago, you likely remember my previous posts on the topic of standardized testing. If you haven’t been reading, you can read those posts here, here, and here.

I have a fear, a fear that the shock of the test results will move people to even more drastic measures and more harmful test preparation as the primary means of teaching students during the school day. We have much to lose if educators resort to more test prep and skill/drill approaches to instruction. We risk higher drop out rates because we are likely to find students disengaged, uninterested, and fed-up with school. We risk the loss of effective arts programs, healthy habits of mind, and understandings of success. In short, we risk the opportunity to prepare students for the life which awaits them beyond K-12 schooling. Sure that’s the intention of the CCR skills—to prepare students for life beyond high school—but the CCR skills leave out creativity and innovation, for the most part.

Being a generally optimistic individual, I also have hope—hope that we will remember the importance of creativity, collaboration, and innovation this week when the standardized test scores for students in Kentucky are released. I hope we facilitate learning opportunities and provide personalized learning based on students’ interests and passions. I hope we continue to promote the arts embedded into problem solving and project based learning. I hope that we will encourage creativity, not squash it.

Ironically, I presented at an assessment conference this week and upon my return home, my 9 year old reminded me that book character dress up day at his elementary school was the next day.   We had discussed this event previously, so I knew he was interested in dressing up like Hiccup in How to Train a Dragon.  However, at 7:00 pm the night before the event, we needed a burst of creativity to make his plan a reality.  The whole family contributed to this creative endeavor.   My older son offered his advice for making the horns from aluminum foil, while my husband searched for an old black tee shirt we could cut up for a tunic.  When it was all said and done, the whole family felt a sense of togetherness and a sense of accomplishment—collaboration and creativity!  Keep it coming.