Every student at West Jessamine Middle School knows that feeling when they are told that MAP testing is approaching, or when they have to bring in their No. 2 pencils for K-PREP. But have those students ever taken the time to understand the reasons behind standardized and state testing?
We take the K-PREP test once a year and MAP two times, and while they may seem like pointless rituals that we only follow through out of habit, they actually do have their uses.
Ashley Brown, Instructional Coach at West Jessamine Middle School, thinks highly of certain parts of standardized testing. “The data that we collect from students taking the MAP tests,” she explains, “helps us decide what our students still need to learn, clarifies what classes certain students should be in, as well as helping to develop curriculum.”
“MAP test is my favorite test,” she confesses. “It tells us very specifically for every student in the building what they’ve learned, what they’re ready to learn, and what’s not within their grasp yet.”
Colin Davis, an eighth-grade ELA teacher here at WJMS, also expresses his feelings towards this type of testing. Specifically, he appreciates how the teachers can easily grade their students in the tests. “It’s a really quick and accurate way to grade what students know,” he says. “[Standardized testing] teaches some really good reasoning skills…in a really logical and defined manner.”
To Zeke Miller, 13, who is in the eighth-grade, standardized testing has become regular. Whether it is the MAP test or K-PREP, the tests don’t bother him that much. However, Miller prefers the K-PREP test because it is not on the computer like MAP. “I would rather have the paper test because I think that it helps me to stay organized during the test,” he says.
However, this type of testing can also have its drawbacks. K-PREP was adapted from one of California’s standardized tests called the CAT test. And according to Brown, the first editions of the CAT test in Kentucky were “ridiculous.”
“Back then, students had the option to test all day long, and into the evening,” she explains. She remembers one question in particular over the memory and analogy sections of the test. “It was something like ‘if a blarb is to a flower then a lola is to a-’ and then you have to figure it out based on the answer choices…it was very bizarre,” Brown says.
When it comes to the current version of standardized testing, she says we have “evolved” quite a bit, but still adds, “with K-PREP I would streamline it quite a bit…and align it to the standards better.”
Many of the students at WJMS would love to have K-PREP condensed, but other teachers just have some advice to help students along.
However, while Scales tells students that simply progressing in their scores is proof that they are doing well, Abby Rexford is an eighth-grader here, and offers her point of view as a student.
“I see how I improve by looking at my test scores in school, instead of a big stradandarized test, because that makes me nervous. If you put stradandarized testing in a box of hard things that you have to know, it makes you feel like if you have a bad score then you won’t make it in life,” she says.
Hopefully these ups and downs of standardized testing have given students something to chew on and think about, so they can understand why we test this way and how it may help and hurt us.
Regardless of your thoughts and feelings over standardized testing, we could all take a lesson from Scales who said, “If you never give your best, where is the point?”