Column – Many student testing methods exist that should be examined
Published 6:01 pm Friday, September 16, 2022
Once a teacher, you’ll always be a teacher? I find it to be true, I believe. (The liberal arts education I’ve had from Divine Word College, in Vigan City, a UNESCO world heritage site in northern Luzon, Philippines and that inquisitiveness in me always kicks in.) Before I immigrated here in 1983 to join my folks and relatives who have been here for more than 70 years, I used to be a high school classroom teacher/college instructor back in the days in the late 70s and early 80s in the Philippines, where I was born and raised.
After working in an electronics company for two years in California, I joined the United States Navy in 1985 and, eventually, retired in 2005, after 20 years of honorable service to my adoptive country, the United States.
I’ve heard that opening statement back then when I was still in college and having enrolled in a number of education courses to qualify me to take and then passed the board exam for teachers.
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I don’t know about you, but I love to share what I know and what I have, what I’ve learned and continue to learn as we go along with life’s journey. After all, we live for one another. We need each other. No man is an island, as they say. And, whether we like it or not, we all have a lifespan. That’s the law of nature. That’s reality.
The new 2022-2023 school year is underway. In schools, students are in and so are the teachers, administrators, staff personnel and volunteers. As summer season is departing, the cool fall is coming in with its offerings to enhance and inspire, I do believe, learning and teaching.
Schools are breeding grounds for education, expansion, growth and development. They are portals to immense possibilities and opportunities. They are also venues for changes and challenges that will shape and transform what society we are going to have.
There are innumerable challenges that schools face or deal with, day and night. To cite, you have safety, security, peace and order, funding or budget allocation (adequate or inadequate). In addition, you have the problem of drugs, mental health, and high stakes testing.
Although schools have these “Drug-free school zone” under penalty of law signs posted in designated places on school grounds, how sure are we that students are not taking drugs or don’t bring drugs to school?
Influences are everywhere, especially if/when they have their cellphones. Influences are in and out of schools. Besides teachers and school staff-personnel, family and friends and outside forces play a crucial role in combating or eliminating drug problems in schools. Everyone in schools, I do believe, is trying to practice and adhere to teamwork as a crying battle for a successful mission accomplishment. All are eyes and ears, brains and hearts of successful school year activities brought about by coordination and cooperation of everybody.
Mental health is another concern nowadays, not only in schools but in the community as a whole. Students, and teachers as well, come in school with varied capacities and capabilities. Assessment, (mis)diagnoses, underestimation and uncertainty come to mind when we deal with students from different backgrounds and all walks of life. Each student (or anyone of us) is as mysterious as our life is, I think.
School health personnel, school counselors and school psychologists/psychiatrists are there to do what they have to do or required to do when dealing with behavioral, unstable students. Again, teamwork is paramount to solving whatever problem arises in students. Home and school and community all need each other to help our students succeed.
Testing is important. In fact, it is employed almost everywhere in business and industries, occupations or professions.
In the case of education, students are tested to gauge their range of learning, to find out if they understood what has been taught to them, per the curriculum instruction by their teachers.
The common pen and paper or online testing has become the norm in education. Ready-made or “manufactured” tests, such as “select the best answer” or multiple choice test, have always been used in the classroom. Nothing wrong with that. Test results are annotated or recorded for various purposes. As it has always been, students’ test scores have become so important as if they are the ultimate predictors of students’ successful learning and teachers’ effective teaching.
Not to discount the pen and paper test, there are other ways of testing, assessing and evaluating students’ learning. One is active classroom observation and participation, particularly graded individual classroom recitation. Asking to and answering correctly a question by a student is a form of testing. Observing a student helping another student solve a problem is testing. Giving essay-type tests in the classroom is another way of testing students’ critical thinking, thought-organization, mastery of the language and/or effective communication skills.
Nowadays, students and teachers have been under a lot of pressure from all sides of the education spectrum. Much more so to our classroom teachers who are always instructed to assess or evaluate their students’ learning with the periodic and mandated state and federal standardized tests that take precedence or given importance over their individual creativity to teach. Hence, they are teaching their students to take the test. And, thus, their students’ test scores become the basis to evaluate their teaching performance? If their students did not do well in those tests, the educated professional teachers are to blame? I say, professional teachers or educators because they have passed through all the rigors of becoming a teacher/educator such as teacher training education and certification or recertification process.
There are members of society who are quick to point their fingers on educators for students’ failures. Yes, teachers become the scapegoats for students’ failures. But, in all honesty, who is to blame for students’ failure to pass, learn and succeed in schools? Blaming the teachers for students’ failure to pass any kind of standardized testing is just absurd and counterproductive. Who wants their students to fail in class? Students are their responsibility in school. But that doesn’t mean they are responsible for everything in their students’ minds. They have a mind of their own. They have the will to learn or not what is being taught in school, the ability and capability to disrupt a class and, therefore, jeopardize the day’s learning for those who want to learn. What about the responsibility of that student, his or her family, other entities or agencies charged with helping to educate our students?
The voice of education professionals and largest labor union of educators in America, the National Education Association, has launched a campaign to end “toxic testing” in an effort to end the abuse and overuse of high stakes standardized tests and reduce the amount of student and instructional time they consume. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA past president, has said before that she would continue to push the president and Congress to completely overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or the No Child Left Behind program, and to end mandates that require states to administer outdated tests that aren’t aligned to school curricula. Furthermore, NEA has called on lawmakers “to repeal requirements that state standardized tests be used to evaluate educators, and instead implement real accountability in our public education.”
Eskelsen Garcia noted that high stakes testing is corrupting what it means to teach and what it means to learn. “It’s corrupting the collaborative relationship we have with each other as we’re told to compete against each other—district against district, school against school, teacher against teacher, and support professionals against each other.” By the way, the current NEA president is Rebecca S. Pringle, a middle school science teacher, social justice warrior and defender of educator rights.
As a family of educators (my wife Freny just retired in July as a veteran chemistry teacher for over two decades; daughter a high school counselor, and son, an IT instructor/theater-voice over actor), we believe it takes a village to raise and educate a child. Our teachers and educators do all they can to help all students to be successful.
-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in northern Suffolk and Chesapeake. Email him at email@example.com.