Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Testing vs. Portfolios

{I did not get my act together to write this for the Crew Blog Cruise in time, but since I had some thoughts on this, I thought I'd go ahead and make this post.  To see other people's thoughts, Click on the button below!}

Since Ben's 4th grade year, we have been voluntarily using standardized tests.  Luke's participated in a standardized teach each year since kindergarten.  Despite, this, I do not use standardized testing to fulfill my state's requirement to demonstrated educational progress each year.  I prefer to submit the boys' work to a trusted registered teacher (who is a home education advocate and has graduated her four children from homeschool) to assess their actual progress.

I have local friends who think this is silly -- to go through the expense and hassle of two evaluations.  These friends really hate the state's interference in parents directing their child's education (a sentiment I share).  So, they do one or the other -- whichever is easier that year -- and are done with it.

And that is fine.  for them.

I have two purposes in using standardized testing with my boys:
  1. Standardized tests are a part of life in America. They need to get used to it:  college entrance exams, semester finals, career placement, even job placement tests.  They need to be comfortable in the situation and learn the strategies and methods for test taking. 
  2. I over-analyze the tests. Before sending the tests in for grading, I take a detailed assessment of the boys' answers to see what areas of weakness they may have.  So, instead of  just getting back a list of subtests and percentiles (like, "Mathematical Reasoning:  85%ile"), I look at the types of errors they made.  How were all the addition questions?  subtraction?  multiplication?  fractions with addition?  Did they only miss inferential reading comprehension questions?  If so, what type -- main idea, cause/ effect, or some other type?   Please understand that although I do this I do not change any answers nor do I tell my kids what types of mistakes they made. 
 After I do this quick survey, I try to figure out if it matches what I've seen in their day-to-day work.  I did this on Ben's last standardized test --6th grade -- and it confirmed what I'd seen with Ben's understanding of decimals.  This helped me to feel more confident that the test would actually represent his skill set.
I've been blessed to have a woman that I just love do Ben's assessments.  Since she's been doing Ben's assessments beginning in 1st grade, we've certainly built up a great rapport.  I appreciate that I'm getting an authentic assessment using his real work across the school year.  She has actually read is work!  She's seen his daily progress in math and (ugh!) spelling tests.  

But, I also love this sort of assessment because it helps me.  I get in my "speech-langauge pathology diagnostic testing" mode and write up a full description of our year -- the good and the bad -- and discuss where we've made progress and what we still need to work on.  I critique myself as well as the boys.  I prepare a portfolio of their work (which is really just a monstrously sized 3-ring binder with practically every paper they've done that year) and tag pieces of work that especially show their abilities (both areas of weakness and strength).

I could -- of course -- prepare this whole end of the year assessment for just myself and pass in our standardized assessment results and be done.  But honestly, I know the written assessment would not get done and I'd have all these disparate thoughts running around in my head.  In meeting with our evaluator I get the opportunity to close out my year, give my kids the benefit of an authentic assessment of their skills, and get to visit with a dear friend for a few hours. 

I honestly come out of our assessments encouraged for the following year -- after a much needed summer break, of course!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

stopping by from the crew... I'm glad we don't have annual assessments here in Oregon, but we do have to submit to the State Standardized tests in 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 11th grade.