Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reflections on Benchmark Week

Well, we all survived ACTAAP testing last week.  The children worked hard and checked their work and did their best each day, and every afternoon we celebrated their hard work and success.  I even danced in a teacher talent show.  Despite all the efforts of our school to make the week as "fun," or at least as bearable, as possible, I struggle every year with my feelings about standardized testing.  In fact, I was in a terrible, negative mood during my last two weeks of work.  Standardized testing makes me feel like a sell-out.  I feel like I'm compromising my beliefs as an educator, my beliefs about what makes a good classroom learning environment, and my beliefs about how we can best assess students' progress and knowledge.

On one hand, I firmly believe that a standardized test cannot and will not yield the most accurate measure of my students' success.  It's also the furthest thing from authentic.  Yes, adults have to take standardized tests to enter some professions; teachers take the Praxis; doctors and therapists take board exams.  But once we all enter the work force, no one is going to ask us to fill in a bubble sheet during the work day.  I would rather my kids be measured by the way they can authentically apply their knowledge and skills, not by how they can regurgitate information.

At the same time, I want my kids to feel successful, and knowing that they could be labeled "Basic" isn't going to make them feel great.  While I want my classroom instruction to be authentic, inquiry-based, and student-led, I also feel the need to give in to the culture of testing that is so prevalent in our society.  It's difficult to reconcile these two lines of thought.  I fully supported my students this week in their work.  I did everything I could to pump them up and get them excited, and I want their performance to reflect well on my school and on my instruction.  Most of all, I want them to know that I'm proud of them.

But in spite of all that, there's a part of me that feels like sticking it to the man, like telling the children that this is just one big week of data collection, and I'm over it.  My students are unique, intelligent, wonderful individuals.  Each of them is more than a student ID number and a test score, and I hope that our education system can someday move to a system of accountability that celebrates their different learning styles and needs and honors the professionalism and craft of teachers.  For now, we made it through another year of standardized testing.  Time to focus on finishing out the year with our science fiction unit.  Looking forward to another week of teaching and learning!


  1. Love your thoughtful reflection, JRH. I only wish your voice could be heard by more of the public. Could you dare to send this as a letter to the editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or the Arkansas Times? Visit my website, for ideas on doing this.

  2. Thanks for reading, Steven! I really appreciate your kind comment. I may just make this a letter to the editor.