March 8, 2019
Thoughts to Ponder: Standardized Testing -- Good or Bad?
The subject of standardized testing always creates a certain amount of angst among state education boards, principals, teachers, families, students, and probably even the maintenance folk who must clean up the gnawed-on pencils after testing is over. Is this kind of testing just a vestigial rite-of-passage into an antiquated "adult world view" of nothing but credentialed occupations, jumbo white grade A eggs, and homogenized milk? Or does it have some merit beyond those narrow parameters?
The good: Standardized testing helps educational systems focus on and stress that there is, indeed, a certain amount of data retention and rote mental ability that most students will benefit from in order to lead a rich life (even in non-monetary terms) in this country and world during the early part of the 21st century. The concepts and benefits of a citizenry sharing - at least to a certain degree - a common ground, common core, and common knowledge fit here. Just as the scientific world has clearly benefited from adopting unified standards of measure (even if we still struggle between the metric and empirical systems), standardized testing at least allows us to keep tabs on where we all are in the core areas of reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and science. It provides a common reference point and can be a valuable tool for keeping pace with one another.
For students, more practically, the benefits include learning how to follow directions, appreciating the importance of time limits, and that sometimes, of course, facts and skills can be fun!
For educators, testing can help keep the class on track. No matter how interesting that new science discovery really is, we can only devote so much time to it during an average school week - there are other pieces of subject material that must be covered too. (Can’t ever forget that new discovery, though - especially in a Montessori School. We keep that fire lit by extending that fascination into home research and shared family enjoyment.)
Good testing can also be one helpful guide when looking into both individual and program-wide needs. Some tests can help uncover discrepancies between a student's basic ability and their classroom achievement, thereby illuminating, and allowing educators to address, individual learning challenges. For good programs, the school-wide data generated from testing is a great tool by which to refine their approaches, order different textbooks, or add new elements, etc.
Does MSA understand this good? Absolutely. This is why we utilize two different kinds of standardized testing - online and pencil-in-the-bubbles - every year from 2nd grade up through 9th grade. ACT’s and SAT’s take over after that. Standardized testing at MSA serves all the purposes above while simultaneously also being "just another aspect of Montessori’s 'Practical Life'".
The bad? Well that could include all of what you've heard down through the eons, ever since national testing first began decades ago.
Children are not eggs.
Children should not be “homogenized.”
Children's mental development timelines vary.
Children hear the results and might struggle with thinking, e.g., "they are only a 70th percentile child.”
Children's "extra-academic" skills/intelligences are not tested - things in the interpersonal, musical, naturalistic realms, for example - and therefore may not get the proper recognition and valuation they deserve.
Children’s even less quantifiable qualities - the kind we all know their bright futures depend heavily upon like collaboration, global awareness, and understanding, creativity, curiosity, focus, determination, and passion (to name a few) - could also get under-recognized, under-stressed, and under-valued for not being represented in standardized testing.
Does MSA recognize the bad? Absolutely. We never simply "teach to the test," needlessly stressing out students and family along the way, even while knowing the value of proficiency in the testing areas.
At MSA, we know how to appreciate and use the practical benefits of standardized testing. At the same time, with our long history of embracing a broad array of program elements and styles, and with the tremendous value we place on the whole child - we, and they, will never be limited by its scope.
So, here’s to a good weekend! And to a fun few days of MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing coming up over the next two weeks.
Dr. Seuss Day
Growing Corn on a Cob
Radioactivity and Half-Lives
Kids Heart Challenge (AKA Jump Rope for Heart)
Anderson University Library Research
Scouts Court of Honor
Fluor Engineering Challenge
As a reminder, Montessori School of Anderson is a smoke/tobacco free environment. Please refer to the policy listed below as it appears in our MSA handbook.
Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Controlled Substances
The use or possession of tobacco products, alcohol or other controlled substances is strictly prohibited on campus, on field trips, and at all school events where students are present.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
With healthy regards,
Susanna Merriman, RN