Thursday, April 26, 2012

Suffering in Silence… Standardized testing from the view of an educator & parent

Guest post by Renny Fong (TimeOutDad)

As our children are undergoing the gruel of the high stakes standardized tests in New York, I can’t help but notice the silence.  So many voices silenced.  So many stories left unheard.  Will all the time, money, and effort that has been spent on making the tests, preparing for the tests, and grading the tests make our children any better off than before these tests?  

Did these tests ask our children how they’re doing, how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, and what they care about?  Did these tests ask our children to innovate or create anything? Will these tests tell our children what their gifts and talents are?  Will these tests tell us what our children’s hopes and goals and dreams are or what their ideas are for a better today and tomorrow? Do these tests really care about our children at all?

Instead of asking questions and finding solutions to real problems, our children are asked to answer questions that have only one pre-determined (and sometimes, quite a debatable) answer.  Instead of sharing about their own lives and experiences, our children are asked to give examples and details from something they most likely have no real connection with.  Instead of developing their own voices, our children are being asked to give their audience (the “graders”) what they want to hear.  Instead of looking at what our children can do, they're punished for what they can’t do.   

When it’s all over, instead of getting feedback on how they did and how what they could have done better, they’ll be given a number that’s supposed to mean something...  everything.  That one number will label them as below grade level, on grade level, or above grade level.  That one number will determine whether they can read or write or think.   That one number will determine whether they’re “good enough” or “smart enough” to move up or move on.  There’s so much focus on this one piece of data that doesn’t even come close to giving us the story behind the mind of each and every child.  This is the reality that has been given to them.
Who are we listening to and whom are we learning from? 
Renny Fong has been an educator for over 15 years, teaching pre-kindergarten through fifth grade; he currently teaches technology.  His wife and his five-year-old son are his biggest joy and inspiration.  He started his blog, TimeOutDad, in September 2009.  You can follow him on Twitter.


  1. And the number the students get arrives months later, so it means nothing to them. Students want their work & tests back ASAP. It is more relevant that way!

  2. And how confused the students must be, actually across the nation, when schools are holding pep rallies for the tests; paying money for high test scores; rewarding ice cream parties and Chick-fil-a parties to high scorers; awarding arm bands to high-scorers; giving students special power bars to eat to "increase performance"; and holding countdowns to test day months in advance. The message is clear that test scores are important, but are the children?

  3. Maybe the only positive thing is it's good preparation for the world of BS they'll soon enough be entering, :).

  4. ==> Who are we listening to and whom are we learning from? <==

    Anxiously, I await the responses to your questions. However, I do believe that you are right that the response will be SILENCE.

    One concept that the tests show very clearly has nothing to do with today's students. The response of the public, the majority of parents, teachers, administrators and educational legislators, to the tests shows that schools have done a remarkable job of creating sheople, for more than one generation. Most people in our society today accept, without question, the mandate of the "blob" about the education of our kids. Horace Mann would be proud of the Obedience and Discipline that the schools elicit in the graduates.

  5. ==>The message is clear that test scores are important, but are the children? <==

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  6. I know a lot of people are in an uproar about standardized tests, but frankly, I would readily accept standardized tests over unrelenting pressure on parents to make their children do their homework, night after night, year after year. At least the tests come to an end. Homework never does, and for some children, causes them significant harm.

  7. Here's the thing, Ken. I think part of the reason why there is so much emphasis on doing homework is because of the pressure on educators to prepare for all of these high stakes standardized tests. Interestingly in Finland, where there aren't any "high stakes" standardized tests until the twelfth grade, the "unrelenting pressure on parents to make their children do their homework, night after night, year after year," doesn't seem to exist, as we know it.

    So, when we readily accept these standardized tests and say we're okay with them because we think they just occur only a few days during the course of the year, we fail to see the whole package and all of the unintended consequences (e.g., higher dropout rates, cheating, etc.). When high stakes standardized tests are used to label and to punish our children and our schools, it seriously affects our whole system of education, especially our children.

    1. As a teacher for over 20 years, I have seen how vacant the eyes of the students are once we begin 'test prep.' Its tragic. I think that one of the consequences of the testing is that we are developing emotionally stunted children. Schools, which were once places where students and families could come together to developp socially and emotionally have now become factories aimed at promoting competition rather than collaboration. Students are the victims of a structure that is designed to create automatons as opposed to thinkers.

      What I find interesting also is that the very system that we are 'improving' via test scores, is also the system that created some of the greatest innovators of our time. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet...not to mention the silicon valley experts as well as so many other inventors...surely SOME of them were products of a 'broken' public system! Ironic...

  8. I concur with your article. We are so "hell bent",I think, on catching up with all the other countries that are WAY ahead of us. The powers that be think this is the way to see if our kids are learning. These tests do not test the rich curriculum I teach every year. The people who create these tests are not educators. And if they are, they sure have lost their way.Testing is a money making business.
    We have been teaching to pass standardize tests. We do no test for knowledge across the subject areas. Schools are getting penalized for not raising scores and schools are being shut down, because of this data driven trend. I really feel for my students when this time of the year rolls around. My generation didn't have to endure all this constant testing and we turned out really well. I want my students to be thinkers, be curious, be creative in their approach and have problem solving skills. I have seen my instructional time diminish over the last six years or so. If we want to catch up with Finland and Singapore, we need to try a better approach of evaluating how our students learn in this country. We have to support creative teachers. We need to support veteran teachers and have them become mentors. We lose a wealth of knowledge when they retire and leave the system. Hopefully this high stakes testing will come to end. All in all, I make sure I do not over stress my little third graders. School should be fun and engaging at their age.