Do you love the change of seasons? For some people, the blooms of spring are the best, while others love the crispness of fall. Summer has many fans, and there are actually even a few people who adore the coziness of winter. Do you know the season that NOBODY loves? Testing season.
Yes, ‘testing season’ is a real thing. It begins in late March or April and can extend into May. During this time, all across the U.S., students in grades K through twelve are taking a bevy of standardized assessments. Parents are alerted, seats are rearranged, schedules are altered, and technology is rigorously checked.
The Recent History of Standardized Tests
Standardized testing has been part of K-12 Education for a long time. Since 2002, when NCLB (No Child Left Behind) was passed, every third through eighth grade student in the U.S. has taken tests calibrated to national standards. After Common Core was adopted in 2009, standardized testing expanded, and is now more prevalent than ever.
Common Core Standards were created in an effort to standardize the entire nation from an educational standpoint. Initially the bulk of states were on board with Common Core’s mission. Since its inception, however, the pendulum has swung the other direction. Many states have abandoned Common Core and moved on to develop their own state standards and assessments, citing the cost-prohibitive nature of testing materials or the oversimplification of standards.
What Do These Tests Measure?
The companies who create these assessments maintain that they measure achievement in content areas including reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. The majority of educators, including teachers and administrators, would argue that notion, maintaining that standardized tests really only measure how well one takes a standardized test.
There is much controversy surrounding the topic of standardized testing, and a virtual quagmire of ambiguous and confusing resources available on the topic. One thing that is consistently clear is that test creators are making a tidy profit as a result of this burgeoning industry.
What Tests Are Given?
Keeping in mind that standardized testing is regional to a great extent, here is a sampling of tests one might encounter throughout the U.S. public schools. This list is not exhaustive, nor is every assessment administered in every state.
State Assessment – these tests are quite varied, but usually include reading, mathematics and science. State assessments are administered annually using technology (iPad or laptop), and are usually administered in two sessions. Question formats range from multiple choice items to essay-type questions.
The TerraNova 2, (CAT 6)
Norm-referenced achievement test that measures reading, word analysis, vocabulary, language (usage, mechanics and spelling), math (computation and problem solving), science and social studies. The Terra Nova 2 assessment is administered over four days in increments of forty minutes.
Stanford Achievement Test
This assessment is given to students in Kindergarten through grade 12. Each grade level has a different test, but all include reading, reading comprehension, mathematics, language, spelling, listening comprehension and vocabulary, science and social studies. Each subtest has twenty to forty-eight multiple-choice questions depending on grade level, and is administered over several sessions.
Common Core Assessments: PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium)
A typical language arts assessment within these assessments requires students to read a passage and answer several multiple-choice questions based on the passage. Additionally, students may be required to go back into the passage and highlight evidence for their answers. In these assessments, students are also asked to compare, contrast and synthesize information from multiple sources.
ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills)
The ITBS measures a student’s knowledge in subject areas including reading, language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. This test is given annually to students in grades K-8. The Complete Battery takes approximately five and one-half hours to administer. This assessment is given over multiple sessions.
MAP (Measures of Academic Progress)
What distinguishes this test from the rest is its ability to inform instruction. Because it is given three times yearly, MAP results can, along with other information, be used to change instructional groupings, shift curriculum, and otherwise alter delivery of information for students based on student test performance.
Standardized testing will continue to ebb and flow, but it is unlikely that the United States will ever abandon it altogether. In the meantime, it is incumbent on parents, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers to stay abreast of current trends and protect valuable instructional time for our nation of learners.
I’ll leave you with this link to the National Education Association…
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