How School Works (or Doesn’t): Standardized Testing Part 2


Hello PDX Education Action Network Readers! This is the second post from the 4 part series on Standardized Testing. The group consists of: Megan Coleman, Rebecca Hamilton, Rocielle Perez and Jen Watt.
I have been talking to teachers and principals at schools about their views on Standardized Testing. The general idea from all is that standardized testing takes a lot of class time to prepare for. The math teacher I talked to said that she likes to make math fun for her students. She likes to make books about math and rap songs. She says that she has to be careful that it doesn’t take up too much time or else she runs the risk of not having enough time to study for the testing. She feels the pressure to teach “fast” and keep up the pace to include everything for the testing. She says that her students are not robots with answers. She wants to have a more well rounded learning experience to grasp the reasons behind the concepts. They are trained to take the tests and sometimes a deeper understanding of the concepts may not be there. She likes her students to like math and feels that she is asked to sacrifice content and connections for math. Certain serious math concepts need time to process. When she gets the 6th grade math students from 5th grade they have had a general teacher. She has a lot to teach in the 6th grade year.
She said that the state keeps raising the bar for testing. As I do, she uses metaphors to describe her point. If you ride a horse and prepare it to jump at the first level is fine. Then the second level may be fine, also. But why are you raising the bar on horse jumping? To see where you fail. The state is raising the bar on testing to fail on purpose. How high do the test scores need to be?
Another teacher, he is in SPED ED, said that the results are always the same. They profile different groups of people in the same way year after year in a negative way. There is no new information. There are many, many contributing factors in testing results. More than just knowing the answers to the questions. How about students who English is a second language? Are they tested in their native language? Or in English that they have not mastered? How is their home life? Is it too hectic to study? Too many stressful factors at home? He brought up so many good points.
The principal said that it is great to have standards for testing, goals to try to achieve. But the real learning comes from the teacher-student interaction. He said that when he posts his weekly newsletter he knows that some people don’t like what he posts. Others like what he posts. It is just the connection with each individual that matters. Some students don’t connect (and learn) with their teachers. Some do. Some schools are labeled “bad” schools because of their testing. When I moved our family to Portland I looked at the test scores on schools to choose an area. He said it may be a great school, there are wonderful teachers in every school. But when there is a low test score attached to a particular school it gets a bad reputation even though it may have wonderful teachers.
Another teacher brought up the point that there are well known bribes about testing. She has taught in a Philadelphia school and teachers were being asked “firmly” to attain certain test scores “or else they could be let go.”There is a lot of pressure on testing.
All of the teachers and the principal were very honest with their experiences with Standardized Testing. I liked their opinions and all very very valid and based on what they have found. We are lucky to have so many wonderful teachers in PPS that care about their students’ learning.
Here is a photo of an actual test score.

One thought on “How School Works (or Doesn’t): Standardized Testing Part 2

  1. Jen,

    First off, kudos for going into an actual school and talking to teachers and principles about their views on standardized testing and its effects on students. I think it’s really important that we ask for and honor teachers’ opinions because they are the ones who work directly with students from day to day.

    You raise a lot of excellent questions in your post, but one that I found most interesting was when you ask: “How high do the test scores need to be?” I think that this is a really important question and one that hasn’t fully been addressed in the development of standardized testing. Who exactly creates these standards? What does the “ideal” student’s test scores look like? As you talk about in your post, with students with such different backgrounds (ELL, stress at home, etc.) is it possible to create a fair test that works for all students?

    Thanks for sharing your research and findings– they are very beneficial and applicable to our class.


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