Abstract: In this post, I will complain about stupid, standardized tests and then I will say why my kids take stupid, standardized tests anyway. Be sure to read the article I refer to in the conclusion. It's a gem.
Today's Standardized Tests Don't Have Standard Results
A standardized test is supposed to have standard results. This means that if a child takes a test year after year, there should not be a large jump in scores between one year and the next. Significant influences like a year of one on one math tutoring or a serious head cold on the day of the test may cause scores to go drastically up or down, but otherwise a child who is performing consistently at school will not see significant score changes.
That isn't the case with the current version of our state's standardized test, aligned to national common core standards. My son has taken the test for three years and his scores have been all over the place. He scored highest on the writing portion the year he basically retyped the prompt than the next year when he typed an original response. He scored better on the math section when we were half a year behind in an "un-common core" math curriculum we were using than when he was in public school working on a common core curriculum math up to 90 minutes a day (not including the 30 minutes of math homework he was doing a night). Did I mention that our "un-common core" curriculum only took us an average of 20-30 minutes to complete? (Read some of my thoughts on Singapore Math)
Knowledge and Academic Competency Cannot Be Reduced to a Test Score
Anyone who knows a kid, a real kid with humor and curiosity and passion, knows that test scores are bunk. Let's move on now.
Standardized Tests Stink, But Here's Why My Kids Take Them Anyway
At this point, I should probably mention that we homeschool through a charter school, so if I want to opt out of standardized testing, I have to go through a process and make a big stink. If I absolutely believed that that there was nothing good at all about state testing, I would go through the process an make the big stink. But I don't and here's why:
I don't know about all states, but in California it doesn't matter if you want to be a lawyer or a barber, there is a standardized test between you and that goal. In my job history career, I've taken tests to be a lifeguard, tests on food safety so I could scoop ice cream, a single subject exam in language and literature to qualify for a single subject teaching credential, a test to prove I had competencies in basic skills like averaging test scores and writing a letter--also to be a teacher, yearly tests in CPR and first aid so I could coach sports, and I passed a test to get an insurance license to help my husband out in a new business start up. And every test that I took, with the exception of the life guarding and CPR exams, seemed to be really odd in the ways they measured competency. (The life guarding and CPR exams were the most common sense tests that I have ever taken. Kudos to the Red Cross for having sensible tests for skills that mean a difference between life and death!)
Since the world isn't spiraling towards a more common sense approach to testing, it's safe to assume that tests will continue to be weird measures of competency. Therefore as a part of my kids "hands on education," I want them to have a real, genuine, bona fide, surreal experience of taking a standardized test when it doesn't really matter, because someday, when they get take the test to get the licence for whatever career they want, they won't be set off kilter by the ridiculousness of what they are doing so that they can get the job that matters to them.
I would like to redirect you to an article by poet Sara Holbrook who wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled I can't answer these Texas standardized test questions about my own poems. It's awesome.
PS: In Case You're Wondering...
I don't do much to prepare my son for standardized testing except teach him a well rounded curriculum full of big ideas and good and useful knowledge. I do use testing as an excuse to make my son practice typing which is a skill he is loath to practice, despite the obvious benefits to a dysgraphic. He does remember how hard it is to hunt and peck through the writing section of a test so he does make the effort to apply himself to his typing practice in the weeks before testing.