Test Scores Should Be Seen as a Teacher's Tool

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 04:00 AM

The first app I installed on my new iPhone is called “Core.” It’s a user-friendly catalog of the new Common Core standards that I have been weaving into my daily practice as a teacher.  It helps me but it is only one piece of the puzzle, not unlike the state test scores released last week.

The apps, the data, the scores are means to an end and we have to, as teachers, keep our eyes on the ultimate goal: challenging our students to learn to the best of their abilities.

I, for one, will use every tool available to make that happen.

I’ve used the Core app to keep my lesson planning relevant to the benchmarks set for students.  Although most school’s intense test preparation begins four to six weeks before the test, I find myself thinking about the state tests every day. Using the Common Core in my lesson planning is the best way I’ve been able to hold my students and myself accountable for increasingly high expectations.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t shocked by last week’s release of New York’s test scores.  The scores at my school dropped a lot. My teacher-friends and I noted how every education official managed to both reassure families and chastise low-performing schools.

What really mattered, however, were the students themselves. When I analyzed test scores I think of each child. Last week I found myself reflecting on a year’s worth of writing projects and reading assessments compared against a quantitative number on my computer screen.

Something about this exercise simply felt wrong.

My students struggled, pushed themselves, failed and excelled each in a personal and unique way. And yet, all fitting on one page, I have a list of numbers that supposedly reflected the entire year’s work.

I believe in benchmarks. I think it’s good for students to know what skills and concepts they have to master in order to advance to the next grade. But my inner dialogue continues. What do the test results really mean, and what can I learn from them?

I’m beginning to think test results matter because they are telling us all that school has gotten harder.  Common Core standards are pushing us to reach higher.  It is our duty to teach the basic principles of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Standards for college and career readiness are being infused into classrooms for a reason. The world today demands every citizen have these critical thinking skills as adults.

Back to my Core app on my phone. It is  my job to use it -- and the test scores -- to figure out how to teach Common Core standards to each and every one of my kids.


Brian Pew


Comments [5]

A NYC Teacher

CM: All of the questions you raised are valid. I would love to be able to answer them, but as I explained in my earlier post, no information is provided to us aside from the score. The kids should get the entire test back so that it can be reviewed and used as a learning tool. I am sure there are also many mistakes made in scoring that go unchecked because the tests are never allowed to be seen. That is probably why they don't provide them. If kids, patents, teachers, etc began comparing the way tests were graded, tons of inconsistencies would be found and Pandora's box would be opened.

Aug. 21 2013 09:06 PM
CM from NYC

In response to the comment about the specific test results not being available to teachers - what is the purpose to this? I assume each question is deliberately formulated to get at a specific topic/idea/subject and at least giving the specifics on what those results are would be helpful for teachers, administrators, parents & students – e.g, what are the students struggling with and excelling in? While I can understand not releasing the specific test questions, I don’t understand not releasing this type of information. Why is it this way?

Aug. 16 2013 10:03 AM

Completely agree with "A NYC Teacher." The test is meaningless if we can't examine the data. To give a test and then never see it again is just wrong and no good teacher would ever put that into practice.

Aug. 14 2013 07:58 PM

Completely agree with "A NYC Teacher." The test is meaningless if we can't examine the data. To give a test and then never see it again is just wrong and no good teacher would ever put that into practice.

Aug. 14 2013 07:42 PM
A NYC Teacher

I think it would be great if the tests COULD be used as a teaching tool, but with the way things are now, I don't see how they could be. The only information we receive from the state is the total score. Kids spend 3 days taking that test and they never see it again. If I give a classroom test, the purpose of it is to assess what my students have and have not mastered. At the same time, those tests can be used as a teaching tool. For example, if I see that the class or a group of students did particularly poorly on a given section of the exam, I can revisit those topics or skills. With the state exam, it's all a mystery. Two students could receive the exact same overall score, but have entirely different skill sets, different strengths and weaknesses. One student may have bombed the essay because he couldn't finish it in time and only wrote a paragraph. Another student could have done poorly (or well) for an entirely different reason. These tests are not meant to teach anything. They are meant as a way to compile statistics that po,iticians and other high ups can use to suit their own agendas.

Aug. 14 2013 04:58 PM

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