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What is the Role of Testing in Education?

In an effort to increase teacher accountability and student achievement, local education agencies have substantially increased testing, assessment, and evaluation. Today, more classroom time is spent on testing than any other time in the history of brick and mortar schools. While tests can have their place in education and assessments can definitely drive instruction, far too much time is spent on assessment in the brick and mortar schools. Tests and assessments are just one of the many different ways students can demonstrate what they’ve learned.

Excessive testing can squash creativity in the educational setting. It can extinguish a child’s passion and fire for learning - especially for students who struggle or who are not good test takers. And instead of learning about and exploring areas of interest, students are required to follow a cookie-cutter curriculum that allows for little creativity in planning.

Do tests and assessment have their place in education? Sure they do, especially as kids get older and have to demonstrate knowledge of specific content in order to master more difficult content. These types of assessments can drive instruction. If your child is able to correctly solve 10 out of 10 two-step equations in math, you can be very confident that she is ready to move on to the next concept in math. On the contrary, if he struggles to read two-syllable words, he may not be quite ready to move on to reading more difficult text.

Kids have three post-high school options - they can enter the workforce, pursue higher education, or they can enlist in the military. It’s important for us to look ahead and think about what kids need to know to be successful in life. How can we best set them up for success regardless of which path they choose?

We all need strong literacy skills. This includes being able to read, write, and speak effectively. It can be very difficult to function in society even with basic literacy skills. Print is all around us and being able to read, interpret, and process those allows us the freedom to choose our path and be successful.

We all need strong math skills, too. Having strong number sense, computation skills, and problem-solving skills allows us the ability to manage household budgets, negotiate salaries, build and construct, plan meals, and plan vacations. I can’t tell you how much money my family has saved because my husband is a master problem solver and can fix nearly anything in our home that breaks.

There are all kinds of skills, facts, concepts, and ideas that kids should know by the time they graduate, and tests can definitely play a role in a well-rounded education. But there are many other ways in which we can evaluate our student’s mastery of academic content. I’ll talk about some creative ways to assess learning in a future post, but I want to encourage you to think outside the box when assessing your child’s learning. Assessments can look very different in different situations and with different people. Individualize your assessment strategy and what works for your child.

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