You might have seen headlines recently about the state legislature wanting to cut the length of ISTEP testing for Indiana students. If you haven’t been following this issue, the gist of it is that Indiana’s decision to reject Common Core wasn’t very well thought out. The rejection meant the state had to hastily draw up its own curriculum and standards, and with that its own standardized testing.
The resulting exams are estimated to take up a whopping 12 hours of classroom time to administer. Now, amid bad press and criticism from the education community, the factions of government are blaming each other while rushing to mend this debacle.
Indiana’s specific case aside, the effectiveness of standardized testing like ISTEP has been a topic of debate for years. I’m not a teacher, and I don’t know the numbers offhand about the success rate of ISTEP or other tests (if there are any solid numbers). All I can add to the conversation is my experience in school.
I think the best example would be the Spanish classes I’ve taken. In high school, I took Spanish for three years. I had three great teachers, and all three years, the classes consisted of assignments that involved either writing words and sentences or speaking in front of the class in Spanish. In other words, we learned by actually using the language.
In college, I took four semesters of Spanish. I had good professors each time, and we did some similar coursework to what I’d experienced in high school. But the majority of our curriculum consisted of homogenized (you could say “standardized”), one-size-fits-all online multiple choice exercises. I passed the classes, but while I actually learned at least some Spanish from high school, I mostly just forgot everything from college as soon as I finished each assignment. Similar, I’d imagine, to how many students forget all the stuff on ISTEP or any other big test as soon as they finish taking it.
The difference significantly affected my opinion on standardized testing and curriculum. The way to effectively learn anything is to practice, to utilize it in daily life.
Governor Mike Pence’s decision to reject Common Core very well may have been political (Common Core has become a target of the conservative movement of late), but since Indiana’s in the position of creating new curriculum, we should take this opportunity have a real conversation about how to effectively teach our kids. A conversation that includes the issue of standardized testing.