Tuesday, February 27, 2018

If the test disappeared???

This is not a rant against state testing.  I was clearing out some pages of notes from the umpteen legal pads, spirals, and composition notebooks I have taken notes in throughout the last several years and I came across a couple of intriguing reflective questions.

What would you do differently if your state test disappeared?
What would you keep doing if your state test disappeared?

I hope that most educators would continue doing many of the engaging and relevant lessons that kids love.  Of course we all would!  These are the lessons that are the most fun for us too.  I can also guess that there are several instructional practices that would disappear from your spring-time classrooms.

What about things like assessment and curricular mastery checks?  What would change?  What would remain?  What would change in the area of differentiation?  Would you still scaffold lessons for students lacking pre-requisite skills.  What about RTI?  Would you continue to provide extra, targeted instruction for struggling learners?

It is easy to say yes to these questions, but it is also easy to see how easy it would be to let some of them wane.  Even with the best of intentions and even when we see clear benefits to certain practices, they typically diminish when the pressure of results diminishes.  It is also easy to argue that a much softer accountability standard would improve the higher level thinking and problem-based learning in classrooms across the state.  There are very few classrooms that prepare students for the state test by providing them with an engaging, cross-curricular project about animal adaptations or bridge building.

What about your day-to-day instruction?  Would it improve?  Would you venture away from your curriculum a little more often to do something more engaging?  Would you worry less about covering it all and more about deep conversations among students?  The curriculum in Texas (TEKS) is ridiculously too much.  Common Core is too.  Then districts turn the standards into units of study which actually add to the number of pages and materials and learning expectations.  How would you attack the learning expectations for your students differently?

What would I do differently?  Probably a bunch.  I wish I wasn't saying it, but it is true.  Test results drive everything.  I wish that a meaningful written curriculum and strong, engaging lessons drove the
learning and the tested portion was simply the measure.  Unfortunately, it is the other way around.  The test drives the machine of teaching and learning.

Regardless, the test is a reality.  The expectations from students, teachers, principals, districts, parents, and communities are a reality.  So... based on these great questions, what can I do better?