Tuesday, November 01, 2005

68 million and counting

Don't miss the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's two part series on testing. Part one is here and part two is here.

From the first installment:

The American Educational Research Association estimates that 68 million tests a year will be given nationwide to meet the requirements of the law.

In Wisconsin alone, the number of students taking the state tests will rise from about 190,000 last year to almost a half million this year, state Department of Public Instruction officials say.

Even the tests are bigger. Some who have seen Wisconsin's fourth- and eighth-grade test booklets groan when describing them. There will be eight hours of testing for fourth-graders and almost nine for eighth-graders. The state has recommended test schedules that could take up parts of as many as 13 school days for some children, although many schools will take fewer days by doing multiple sections a day.

The official testing window opened Oct. 24 and runs to Thanksgiving. Because many schools don't like to give tests on Mondays or Fridays, the focus will be on the middle of each of those weeks.

A reasonable guess: More students in Wisconsin will be taking standardized tests Tuesday than on any single day in state history.

All this testing requires a lot of test prep -- or does it? The article describes daily prep in some schools. But...

Experts generally agree that having students study for standardized tests is ineffective. DPI officials say about one hour a year of teaching students what to expect, including how to handle the test format, is about all that is productive.

Renee Bast, a third-grade teacher at the Academy of Accelerated Learning, says, "In the long run, test preparation starts in kindergarten."

And therein lies the rub. This is the problem. Everybody knows that tests are supposed to be a diagnostic tool but by adding the high-stakes element to the tests they become an end instead of a means to an end.


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