Well, this has been a fun week. This was suppose to be the week our students in Indiana took the ISTEP exam. The exam that is suppose to measure how much our students have learned over the course of the year and how well our teachers have taught them. As a former classroom teacher, I've gone through the speech with my students time and time again.
"Go to bed early. Eat a good breakfast. Take your time. Read each problem carefully. Do your best!"
I've sat through all the speeches from administrators and test coordinators.
"Don't leave the test unsupervised. Make sure students work on every problem and take their time. Make sure all test material are returned and locked away at the end of day."
The multiple choice portion of the test was online this year. The state spent at least three years preparing for this day. Then a funny thing happened...it didn't work!
For the past 2 days students have watched globes spin on their screens while the test remains in limbo. I'm on an email list with other technology directors and watching the emails come in has been both frustrating and slightly entertaining.
Here are some stories that have come out the last couple of days on this disastrous event.
I could go on and share 100+ articles on the issue but I won't. However, I do want to share a couple of my thoughts on this issue.
Is this year's ISTEP test a valid test?
I have a hard time believing any ISTEP test, past or present, is valid. It is impossible to get a clear picture of what students actually know and/or what teachers have taught on a test that only takes up a "few days" out of 180 days of school. I put few days in quotes because all teachers know that high stakes test take up more than just the days we administer them.
Actually, I would actually say that high stakes test steal days away from our students. Days that our students could be spending exploring their interest, creating something, working on a service project with their classmates, or finding their voice in a space by themselves.
Now I bring into question the validity of this test because of all the interruptions. How many test questions were discussed among students or with parents? Maybe even googled when they got home. What kind of testing environment did this epic fail create for our students and teachers? Do you think people are more stressed or less stressed? Do you think students care more or care less about the test now?
Point being, schools have spent all of this time prepping kids for this test, that counts for a school's "grade" and a teacher's evaluation/pay, and now it's pretty easy to question the validity of this test.
Which brings me to my next and final question?
Should we, as educators and/or parents, capitalize on this blunder and push for the removal of standardized test?
Is this the right time to stand up and say, "look what has happened here and how it's harmed our schools and robbed us of days we could be spending following our passions?" Should we take advantage of this platform and point parents/guardians to Opt Out Indiana? Maybe it's time we buy copies and of "One Size Does Not Fit All" by Nikhil Goyal and pass them out at the next PTA meeting.
This could be the right time, while the media in Indiana is looking our way, to show the world that there is a better way to do this. One thing for sure, we can't give CTB/McGraw-Hill a free pass on this one and we can't let the IDOE just have us return to "business as usual".
This "high stakes" test has become a "high stinks" test and it's time to throw it out.