Virtual Voices

Rethinking the standardized test

Education

Once upon a time (21 months ago to be exact) I wrote about all the reasons why we decided to have our kids participate in standardized testing every year. For the most part, I still believe all of those reasons to be valid ones . . . for some of my kids. But after administering the test to eight third graders this week, one of them my own, I'm no longer convinced this is the best way to evaluate all of my children. In fact, I'm quite convinced that the results we get back will do very little in the way of giving us an objective analysis for her.

You see, the daughter in question has a slight reading delay. She has adapted to this very well by becoming an amazing auditory learner, but when asked to read something and then respond to it, it's a struggle for her. The test she took this week required a lot of reading for all subject areas-the standard reading comprehension, of course, but also math, science, and social studies. We won't really find out what she knows about problem solving, science ideas, or geography. Instead, we will just have our knowledge of her reading delay enforced as we see how it affected all of these other areas.

Had I been able to read all of the questions to her slowly and given her more time to process the answers, I'm confident we would see much different results.

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This isn't just a concern for this particular daughter. I noticed the same trend in about half of the children I tested this week, and I'm guessing the same is true for kids in traditional school settings.

Test results can be a helpful tool in the right setting and for the right kids. But for some there needs to be an alternate form of objective analysis that is weighted just as heavily as the standardized test would be for children who test well.

Until something is figured out, though, there will continue to be discouraged kids taking tests all over the country. And what we find out about them won't really tell us all that much about what they actually know and understand.

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