‘Listen’ to students who hate testing

Frustrated with test prep, Ankur Singh took time off from college talk to students, teachers and parents about the “dehumanizing” effect of standardized testing. Here’s the trailer for Listen.

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  1. No one ever seems to talk to the kids who love standardized tests, who embrace bubbles, and who look forward to them as a pleasant break from the normal school days.

    Why is this?

    • “the kids who love standardized tests, who embrace bubbles, and who look forward “… to that kind of test may have to wait until they take the SAT. I loved “bubble tests” too, and many students still prefer them — but most of the state tests nowadays are of the “constructed response” type. The student has to write numerous short (1 paragraph) or long (up to several pages) responses to a variety of questions to show his ability to apply knowledge, make inferences and generalizations, and generally exhibit “higher order thinking.”

      Even very competent students often dislike — or at best, simply tolerate — these tests. They rarely have that satisfied feeling they can get from multiple-choice tests that they have “nailed it.” The tests are graded on a rubric basis and the student can never be quite sure what are the criteria for a top grade. Inevitably, there is some subjectivity in the grading as well. The CR sections are graded by humans, guided by rubrics and anchor papers.

      Here’s an explanation, of sorts, about constructed-response tests:

      Scroll down to the part on “second generation assessments.”

      These began to make inroads in the ’90s, took off with NCLB and are extensively used today. They are very different from the tests that most contributors here took in their day. They take much longer to administer, too.

      Older style m/c type tests are still around but are not nearly so widely used. Almost all the state tests as per NCLB are CR assessments (with some m/c items included but not predominant)

      • Deirdre Mundy says:

        Ugh. So the new ‘standardized’ tests are like the old, unstandardized blue book exams?

        If they’re graded by people, even with rubrics, how can they be said to be standardized? The whole point of the old way was to remove favoritism and emotion from the grading process!

  2. Dierdre,

    When we had testing days (a couple of times a year), the standard rule was when we finished the block of tests scheduled for that day (usually 2 or 3), we were done for the day, so if you were a good test taker, and learned all the tricks for acing exams (assuming you knew the material), you would normally be finished before lunch, so you were free to leave campus (this was back in the late 70’s, mind you).

    I dunno about today 🙂

    • I used to love standardized tests… and my kids (homeschooled) beg for them… to the point where they’re an “if you’re good and we have extra time this year” treat…….

      It’s fun to compare yourself to other students objectively, without the teacher playing favorites….

      And tests mean a week with no homework…. I always thought they were like a game…

      Heck, I enjoyed the SATs and APs too!

      But again… reporting on the issue seems to take a ‘kids hate tests’ slant.

      Is it that ALL kids hate tests and find them dehumanizing? Or is the problem that some kids are bad at tests. And then, if that’s the case, shouldn’t we also get rid of art, music, and gym? Some kids are bad at those things! What about group work? We never hear from the kids who hate group work…

      It’s like all reporting on education is designed to advance a specific sort of classroom….

  3. Jenny Jones says:

    I love “bubble” tests and do well at them. The problem is that school as we knew it no longer exists, largely due to time spent practicing how get high scores on these new tests because there is so much riding on the results. They are also so frequent now that there is little time for much else. My school (I teach middle school) spent two full days before school began as “transition” days so we could administer achievement tests for grouping purposes. Then, the first week was spent testing reading, math, and science. Each test had 64 questions and the time it took to read and understand what was being asked and then go back and justify your answer was ridiculous. By the third day, the students may have just bubbled anything for all the thought they put into testing. Even worse, we get to do this again in December.

    Add to these benchmark assessments the end of unit test given in EVERY class EVERY month. Students who are doing poorly will also be required to participate in progress monitoring as often as every week.

    • The beatings … err TESTING … will continue till morale improves!

      With enough tech and the right curriculum you’ll soon monitor everything with real time testing. Of course the incremental learning may well have tended to 0.

      Who says you can’t use calculus in the real world?