Sunday, May 31, 2009

On testing...

OK.  Like I promised.  Here's my take on the day long scoring of student portfolios.  
  • I liked doing it because I wanted to learn the process so I'd understand it from the classroom side - especially if I were to have to collect for a portfolio myself.  (I picked up a number of time saving tips from looking at various methods.)
  • I'm glad teachers were the scorers.  We all learned about our students and the teachers who work with them.  We all will be better at evaluating and collecting work down the road.
  • A lot of money was spent that day.  
There were about 30 teachers, some of whom worked the whole 8 hours.  All of whom had to go through mandatory training prior to the scoring day.  All of whom had to be paid for the training time and scoring time.  (Hey, I don't mind making a little extra money....)
There was a lot of material provided by the testing company.   More money.
There was a computer program for collecting, checking, aggregating the scores.  More money.
And then all those computer collected scores go on to be verified at the state level. More...you got it.
I kept imagining the program being reproduced all over the state and the money spent kept piling up in my imagination.   
And this is just a small part of our end of year evaluations. There are End of Course tests in most classes that my students sit in - and all of those tests have to be bought and paid for. (Note to self: upon retirement check job availability at Pearson or College Board.)
Is this the best way to spend our education dollars?  
In the old days we trusted our teachers to evaluate students.  Were teachers different then? Maybe yes, maybe no.
I know teaching and learning was different then. (I've got my old report cards to prove it. We spent years of class time on handwriting in elementary school.  It was called Writing and had nothing to do with essays.  It was penmanship. We've got other things to teach these days.)
Ironically, as we sorted through the samples of student work the one comment that kept coming up was that student work was always easier to score when A TEACHER wrote a comment of her/his own on the paper to describe what was observed.  Hmmm, narratives by teachers - still the strongest bits of evidence.