32135644 - ASK ABOUT ACCOUNTABIL TY Timed Tests for Tykes W...

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Unformatted text preview: ASK ABOUT ACCOUNTABIL TY Timed Tests for Tykes? W. James Popham Question: Each week, our school requires all lst and 2nd graders to take timed tests in basic mathematics. The announced purpose of this activity is to improve students’ standardized test scores by the time those statewide tests are administered in 3rd grade and beyond. Although the tests take less than five minutes to complete. the pressure on students to perfomi satisfactorily is palpable. “Perfect-score students" receive rewards recognizing their accomplishments Parents of low-scoring students are urged to help their chil- dren with their math skills at home. 1 believe my school is moving in a direction detrimental to children's learning. Do you agree? HElemcrttttijy School Teacher; New jersey Answer: Yes, your school is moving in the wrong direction. Sadly, what you‘ve described is symptomatic ofthe way many educators are currently allowing students” scores on extemal tests to trump almost everything going on in school. What's most troubling about your school‘s “titned»tests—[or—tots" policy is that it corrupts an education tool that. if used properly, can markedly enhance education quality. I refer, of course, to tests. Let’s consider for a moment why educators use tests in the first place. We assess students so we can make inferences about students’ covert knowledge, skills, and affect. Teachers can’t tell—by looking—how much a student knows about world history, whether a student can design a sensible scien- tific experiment, or what a student‘s attitude is toward mathe- matics or reading. That‘s why teachers use tests (or, if you prefer, assessments) to get a fix on what kids know, can do, or believe. Without tests, educators would only be able to speculate about what’s going on inside their students’ skulls. Tests, however, oblige students to perform in a way that yields an overt response. Students might circle a T or F for a true—false item or make checkmarks on an attitudinal inven- BS Eoet'A'tithi. LLADERHHII‘IMAY 2008 The last thing educators should do is pressure kids to be math—perfect in minutes. Lory. From these overt responses, educators make inferences about their students’ covert status. Teachers who don“t assess their students, either formally or infor- mally, end up guessing about their students’ status, They’ll often guess wrong. Tests, then, should be a teacher’s ally because they enable teachers to get an accurate fix on their students, if teachers employ tests as part of a fonnative assessment process, then the instructional dividends really roll in. Substantial evidence indicates that classroom forma~ tive assessment. if appropriately imple— mented, can produce remarkable gains in students‘ learning. These gains arise when teachers employ assessment- elicited evidence to adjust how they're teaching or to help students adjust how they're trying to learn something. And tests—if they have been properly selected for that purpose—can also supply evidence that can bc tised to evaluate schools or school districts. Although many standardized accounta- bility tests used today in the United States are ill suited for such evaluative purposes, the right kinds of external achieve— ment tests can supply relevant evidence regarding the quality of instruction. Thus, whether they're used for instructional or accountability purposes. tests represent potentially potent tools for teachers. This brings us back to what’s been going on in your school—forcing 151 and 2nd graders to take short—duration timed tests. Clearly such timed test taking will not be useful for children when they grow up. When was the last time you had to take a timed test? Why, then, are these youngsters being required to take timed tests in math each week? The answer is all too apparent: So the adults running the school will look good. School administrators or district oil-trials have (.lt't‘lth‘Ll that when lederully I‘L'quli't‘Ll accountability tests urrivc during 3rd grade. the school‘s students will pcrlorm well on those tests. making, it uppvnr as. though the school is ell-co lively teaching its SlllLlL‘ttlS. kiln-n the loci that so many young pt‘oplt‘ regard math with distaste these days. Iltt‘ last thing educators should do Is pressure kids to he ninth-perfect in minutes I‘m assuming that these tests start oil with addition and subtraction. but one never knows when [his sort ol' pt‘ttL‘IIL'C-lt‘SI insanity infects a school‘s leadership, We need our students to regard mathematics positively. to realize that the husic operations in math are not only ltilptitiaml. I)th also readily mastered l low unit we nurture such disposttlons tin-turd math when l‘tlL'lI Wrclx .1 it'st shows nutm‘ ol lllL‘ school?» students that they're "not very good .tl ninth"? Moreover. the numerous. rewards tllslit‘tl out to tlu‘ PL‘I‘l-l‘i’lcht’t‘tll‘ students will surely make the other students lccl tlL‘L‘lSlYi‘l)’ "impcrlcu" ill ninth. What's going on in your school ts educationally indefensible. Your school‘s; ol‘lit‘tuls have lnltrn :1 terrific instruc- tional tool—u test ol students‘ math understandEng—and transformed it into :1 whip. Many ol' the students Will proh— zthly end up thahlctng not only tests. but also math. In an instructionnliy oriented class— room, [t‘iIL‘liCI'S and students would see assessments as helpful tools. l-iowcvcr. the weekly tests that your l5i and 2nd urudcrs LII‘L‘ taking while u stopwatch ticks :n't‘ unything hut helplul, Your school‘s administrators should abandon tins .thsurdtty altogether and instead. uret- teachers to lunch math well. E! W. James Popham is Emeritus Professor in the UCLA Graduate School of EdUCBUOfi and Information Studies; [email protected] Promoting the Principles and Practice of Democracy WE THE PEOPLE: THE CITIZEN AND THE CONSTITUTION We the People teaches the history and principles of the US. Constitution and Bill of Rigth to upper eiementary. middle. and high school students.The newly revised high school book is divided into six units. with 39 lessons in the 366-page. full-color student edition. Side-by-side text in the teacher's edition provides materials to enrich classroom teaching. High school classroom sets include a free video series. Representative Democracy in America, .ittxct WE THE PEOPLE: PROJECT CITIZEN Project Citizen promotes competent and responsible participation in government by teaching upper elementary. middle. and high school students how to monitor and influence public policy. CENTER FOR C ’IC. EDUCATION REQUEST A FREE CATALOG 5145 DOUGLAS FIR ROAD. CALABASAS, CA 91302 TELEPHONE 800.350.4223 ¢ FAX 818.591.9330 WWW.C|VICED.ORGIASCD O ASCD®C|VICED.ORG .-\~~m l:\||t'=\ IUR .Ht Pt-Itttstots \xo Ct'tttiti l I I-M. DE \| I omit \l 87 Copyright of Educational Leadership is the property of Association for Supervision éCurriculum Development and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. ...
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32135644 - ASK ABOUT ACCOUNTABIL TY Timed Tests for Tykes W...

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