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Standardized Assessment Journal Entry

I remember always hating standardized testing when I was in school.

Teachers would become anxious in the weeks leading up to the tests and focus

would eventually become making sure that we understood whatever concepts we

were working on for “the test.” It always seemed like something out of a horror film

(or maybe more aptly, a psychological thriller) – “the test” – an entity that takes on a

life of its own and all must bow down before it. Before I even considered the idea of

teaching I felt like standardized testing wasn’t doing anybody any good – not the

teachers and definitely not students like me.

Learning about standardized tests has given me a bit of insight into the

reasons why they are seen as important and the measures that teachers must take

to ensure that students are ready for “the test” but also learning a variety of other

concepts as well.

When I was in school we did STAR (Standardized Testing And Reporting)

tests and frankly, I don’t remember how prepared we were for them. I just know

that my scores made sense to me and were pretty much a foreshadowing to my SAT

scores. It wasn’t until this course that I realized that SAT tests were a type of

standardized test. It’s funny to think that the preparation for the STAR tests was

done with such disdain and reluctance, while we were encouraged to really study

hard for the SAT exams.

This made me consider, what other standardized tests did we take when I

was in school? I remember distinctly having to take the scoliosis test in junior high, I

remember the STAR tests, but it never occurred to me that SATs and AP exams were
standardized tests as well. I recently spoke to my teacher mentor, along with other

teachers that I know about standardized testing, and they reminded me that

Common Core State Testing was also now required and that a lot can ride on the

results of standardized testing; whether the teachers like it or not.

Thinking back to those days in school when we filled in the bubbles on those

maroon and off white scantrons, I didn’t realize that so much was riding on the

results of these tests: how my teachers would be evaluated, changes in the policies

and standards for education, funding given to our school or district, or any

government metric that provides insight into our education system here in America.

It sort of makes me a bit queasy thinking back to hearing friends and acquaintances

brag about filling them in at random or creating doodles like stars and Christmas

trees with them. Why weren’t we informed that they actually meant something?

Maybe they did tell us and we just didn’t listen.

While on the California Department of Education website (cde.ca.gov) I did a

bit of research on standardized testing performed in our state and I was really

surprised by the amount of standardized tests that we give our students. CAASPP,

CELDT, CAHSEE, CHSPE, ELPAC, HSET, NAEP, PFT…. It looks like a roster of

clandestine government agencies on this page. High School Exit exams, proficiency

exams for students wanting to graduate early, GED exams, fitness exams, English

proficiency exams…. We really put our students through a roller coaster of

standardized testing to ensure that they are all on the same page and all performing

well. It’s incredible to think that these exams dictate what content teachers are

delivering to their students and with each change or new assessment rollout, the
changes to those plans and lessons. Talk about having to adapt to a changing

environment!

Thinking about how I would “teach to the test” has me considering the ways

in which I can ensure that the content from the standardized tests are covered, as

well as giving me the ability to differentiate delivery and methods for a diverse

group of students. I think the key would be formative assessments. I am a big fan of

open discussions and I think formative assessments in the shape of discussions and

“free recall” assignments is a great way to ensure students are on the right track

when it comes to comprehension. If I knew that students were having issues with

curriculum that will be covered in the standardized tests before they are given, I can

take the extra time to review and reinforce those concepts. Checking for

understanding with formative assessments is crucial to ensuring that teachers are

adjusting their teaching methods to their specific students.

When I begin teaching, I will be teaching in California where students are

required to take the CAASPP standardized tests in elementary grades, junior high,

and high school but not in my content area (science). After the 2017-2018 school

year, my students will also be required to take the Exit Examination, but again, not

in science: only in mathematics and English. The only standardized testing that

students would have to take in my science classroom is the California Common Core

Standards test, but it has been suspended until a new standardized test for Next

Generation Science Standards can be created. This would be a test given to the same

grades that take the CST test: grades five, eight, and ten. So really the only
standardized tests that I would have to administer to my students would be AP

exams from those students in my AP classes.

In our presentation for this week, the Power Point slide on ways to prepare

students for standardized testing states, “plan instruction with learner outcomes

designed to meet content standards, perhaps to exceed them,” (slide 12) and I

thought what a great concept this was: to use the standardized tests as a guide but

not the limit of what students should know or learn. This sounds relatively easy for

an AP class, where students have proven themselves to be above average

performing students.

While it sounds like standardized testing for my content area is in the middle

of a complete renovation, the theories and methods for differentiating instruction

and creating plans to prepare students for these exams are still incredibly useful

tools to have. In the coming years I will be considering the ways in which to utilize

formative assessments to ensure that my students are performing well, both in the

classroom and in relation to all of the other students taking these assessments.

Resources:

Testing & Accountability: Testing (ND). Retrieved from:

http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg

TED 623 (2016) Lecture 2: Planning Curriculum Differentiation through

Assessment. Retrieved from:

https://nu.blackboard.com/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?content_i

d=_2854697_1&course_id=_41395_1

The College Board (2016). AP Central: AP Teacher Community. Retrieved from:

http://www.collegeboard.com/html/apcourseaudit/