Assessment Overload: How to explode a teenage brain.

Assessment, this isn’t a new topic for me. I believe strongly in using assessment tools to judge student learning and adjust instruction, the basis of formative assessment. However, just how much can you, or should you, use a heavy duty standardized assessment to judge student learning? At what point do students get burnt out and the assessment tools just being “gotten over with” versus actually measuring student ability.

Over the past month and into the next few weeks students of various grades will be taking MAP testing in English, MAP testing in Math (two tests to judge student progress and can be compared year to year), SATs, NECAP Tests, AP tests,  on top of any quizzes, tests and other forms of assessment in their regular classes. ABSURD!

How can we expected students to be assessed accurately when they have to take 2, 3 even 4 standardized tests all with varying levels of actual importance to their lives. I know if I had NECAP tests, AP tests and SATs within a 3 week period the two tests that would further my college career and life in general would surely get more of my brain power than a test aiming to gauge student learning as a tool to assess the school as a whole, and has no bearing on me the individual student. Such is life as a human, we prioritize based on level of relative importance based on our own needs and goals.

All of these tests also take time, class time. To me there is a point at which the class time lost for all of these assessments inhibits the main goal, instruction and student learning, and the benefits of the assessment no longer out weigh the loses.

All I have to say is I’m glad I’m not a high school today dealing with all of these standardized tests, on top of school work, on top of being a teenager… a feat in itself.

If we want to truly measure student learning with accuracy something has got to give. If we continue to bombard students with test after test I’m afraid the despair I hear in their voices as they walk through the halls to “more testing” is going to translate in less effort on assessments because A) they have nothing left to give at test time or B) they are sick of spewing their brains out every couple of weeks onto another test.

Also, how good are these assessments anyways? From my training and experience as a teacher I have learned, read, and heard over and over standardized tests are not the best assessment tool. So, why are we using so many? Does a shotgun of standardized tests equal one actual good assessment? I doubt it, but that’s an issue all to itself.

Maybe a student brain explosion caused by assessment overload would lead to much needed changes, but I wouldn’t want it to be any of my students…