There is a whole lot of practice testing going on this month in New York State. Teachers with the best of intentions have put aside the work that they love best so that they may, in their minds, serve kids well by preparing them to take a standardized test of one kind or another. I understand their concerns. We would all feel a bit irresponsible asking students to do battle without arming them properly. But what does that look like?
How do we get kids “ready for the test”? How do we know if our efforts are even making a difference? What helps? What hurts?
Two years ago, I sat across a table from someone who shared five different New York State Math Assessment practice tests with me. When the scores on each of these assessments were compared, the scores remained pretty level. In the end, it was clear that “preparing for the test” in this way resulted in very little improvement over time for this particular teacher and the group of students she served. I’ve noticed the same, over and over again, in my work with teachers. Yet, when I suggest that practice testing may not bring up scores, that review books do little more than bore kids to tears, and that students don’t need help understanding the format of the test because they take one every thirty seconds anymore, I am always challenged on this. Always. And it is never pretty.
So, help me out.
I’m wondering how many teachers study the effect of their “test prep” efforts over time. How do you feel about preparing for assessments? What is your approach? What works? What doesn’t?
Should we even be having this conversation? What do you think?