How About This Instead of Testing?

This week the Education Department announced that states must give standardized tests and may use them for previously established purposes: teacher evaluations, school grades, or graduation requirements, etc. (although with some flexibility.) Teachers are feeling gobsmacked.

In a year when remote students struggle to complete SeeSaw activities or even log in to a Google Meet they are expected to complete a strenuous high stakes test online (and do their best!) When hybrid students are getting 2 days of direct instruction and teachers struggle to create meaningful learning for both in person and off campus days they will be assessed on how well they fill in the dots on a task someone else has deemed necessary -to stress us out even more. Even students who have been in person this year may have lost loved ones, lived with stressed family members, and experienced worries no recent generation has endured.

The information we get back months from now will be useless in driving instruction (even more so than ever before). Teachers and students have been resiliently adapting to ever-changing conditions during a global pandemic that have required us to flexibly respond on a moment’s notice to incoming information. Waiting for data that will be months old (and neither reliable or valid) does not support our efforts. It does, however, offer a myriad of opportunities for societal shaming of teachers, students and families!

Want to know what our kids are learning? Let’s ask them. Instead of a standardized test that better reflects affluence and privilege, let’s ask them to create something that memorializes this year for them. Something that demonstrates their grit, flexibility, caring, courage, creativity…you name it. These kids have been through a year of learning like no other in history and no correct number of filled in bubbles can capture their true learning.

Ask them to produce a documentary with multimedia. Create a comic. Draft a memoir. Collect artifacts that tell their story of the pandemic year. Draw, paint, compose a song, or craft a poem. (Don’t forget the reliable old diorama!) Think of the collection this generation could create that would memorialize their determination, their sacrifices, their unique experiences. What if the Dept. of Education used the millions of dollars dedicated to testing companies and instead created a national archive dedicated to our students! How amazing would THAT be?

It wouldn’t be OPTing out. It would be an OPTional, OPTimistic, OPTimizing, OPTimum OPTion for our students. It would be an opportunity for our world to celebrate what our children have accomplished in surviving and thriving during this incredible year of pandemic teaching and learning. It would be something more long-lasting, meaningful, and insightful.

Which one would be more valuable?

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UNICEF images “Children in Bangladesh are using art to express their thoughts and feelings about the pandemic.”

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