Unless you were under a rock last week, you probably saw the Washington Post article “When an Adult Took Standardized Tests Forced on Kids.” This article has spawned the Twitter hashtag #takethetest, and it has also inspired some of my favorite education bloggers to share their own thoughts.
Canadian educator and blogger Joe Bower was even able to converse briefly with Alberta’s Minister of Education about the possibility of the Minister taking the test. My friend, Deven Black argues that, “After all, if the tests are adequate to judge teacher ability they must certainly be able to judge the ability of the people who hire the teachers, set curriculum and allocate assets to schools.” Deven’s post has some interesting comments and I think they are important to consider. Some adults don’t think they need to know what a 10th grader knows because it’s no longer applicable to their lives. Others worry that politicians, should they take the tests, will begin to try to influence their content.
I am intrigued by the idea, not just of school board members taking The Test, but also by the idea that these leaders will stand by what they enforce on teachers, administrators and schools. As someone who has proctored hundreds of PSSAs, I have seen a fair dose of poorly worded questions, reading selections that assume a certain amount of prior knowledge and questions that teachers have thrown their hands up at because an open-ended question was on an obscure topic that the curriculum they were following didn’t stress. Every time I proctor, I make sure to take the test at the same time, walking around the room with a blank test in my hand. I’ll freely admit that despite my fancy liberal arts degree, numerous academic achievements, a Master’s degree and three certifications, I have come across at least one question on every test that I could not answer correctly.
I think it would be at least fair for Arne Duncan or Michelle Rhee to take one of the state tests and then own up to their score and reflect on it.
**update: I have to give credit to my friend, Lisa Nielsen for the work she does to push the envelope in education and challenge the status quo. Along with Joe Bower, she has been advocating for families and students to opt-out of standardized tests. (a subject on which we do not always agree) I was made aware of Joe’s post through her.