State school officials say standardized tests as we know them — the multiple choice kind that require Scantron forms and No. 2 pencils — are not working for teachers or students.
What we need, California Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said last week, is to move away from memorization-driven tests. He's proposing an assessment exam that draws on analytical skills, problem solving, and writing, which are in line with the Common Core curriculum set to debut in 2015.
We asked you for your thoughts on Torlakson's recommendations, which include a moratorium on all state testing next school year, making kids subject only to federally mandated exams. He said that would give teachers, students and administrators “breathing room” to transition to the new curriculum.
In response to our questions, many of you said students are not receiving a balanced education because teachers devote too much time classroom time teaching to the test.
Darlene Matthews, of Newport Beach, said the students should spend more time on real-world skills and logical thiking — things that the current tests fail to capture.
"Mechanical skills, time management and planning, self care, understanding the world around you, interpersonal skills, are all important," Matthews said.
She suggests kids receive math lessons that focus on cooking, balancing a checkbook or coming up with a household budget. And using math in art, with a spirograph and other applets. She also wants schools to teach even the littlest kids science by hybridizing seeds in school gardens, for instance, rather than waiting until they're older.
Joe Miller said he and other teachers are frustrated at poorly designed tests. He said if the state tests are suspended next year, it'll fix that awkward few weeks at the end of the school year:
"Our end of year schedule will be better with fewer testing days. CA has a testing window that is allowing each school to test at the same time, regardless of when they end their school year. Many places have 2-3 weeks of school left after the state testing window closes, where, you've prepped for the Big Test, and then have to find new material to cover for 2 weeks until your school finals are held. It'll be nice to miss that next year. "
Janie Schuesler will be working at a charter school in Merced next year. She said:
We don't teach to the test. So it would be nice to not have to deal with it and focus more on what our students need and learn from.
Ann Wellhouse, a former educator, said she doesn’t agree that too much time is spent teaching to the test.
Before standardized testing many children were funneled into courses that taught them nothing in middle and high school. Those kids still fail the State tests but at least we are not just providing them with a junk education. The new tests have the potential to determine a wider range of knowledge but it isn't going to change the outcomes for low performing kids by itself… We need to focus on their individual needs not just keep giving them tests they are going to fail.
In response to our poll, “If a test moratorium goes through and kids get a little more time in the classroom next year, how should they spend it?” most of you said kids should spend time on artistic endeavors, according to the results as of Friday afternoon:
- 45 percent: Drawing, learning a monologue, playing an instrument, anything creative. Education should create well-rounded, creative kids.
- 24 percent: More physical activity, especially in elementary schools. Kids are expected to sit still and focus for too long.
- 18 percent :Working on homework so that there is no more homework. Studies show that homework doesn’t improve comprehension.
- 9 percent: Reading or going over math drills. Students need more practice in these areas whether they’re being tested or not.
You can still weigh in: Just vote in the poll embedded below.