Last week working on a video presentation for a GATO grant and taking the Stanford 10 with our soon-to-be graduating Kindergarteners took us out of our daily routine administratively.
One morning as we were about to start our day, talks of the two experiences converge to meet at a defining point. The topics: What Tip Would You Give to Teachers Across America and The Standardized Test.
We gleaned 90seconds from our fifteen minute talk together: In this video, Megan shared the story of one standardized tested child contemplating how to determine the number of apples on a tree.
During the test, Megan noticed that the child was perplexed on a question which seemingly appeared easy. Following up, the student explained her thought process- on a real tree you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking as some apples may be hidden behind the leaves.
Understanding the critical thinking tools a student uses to arrive at an answer provides just as much- if not more- information than the score he may receive from a test.
For example, the choices presented to the child might be: S L T F
The question presented: A picture of a fish jumping above a flowing stream of water. What is the beginning sound.
The answer provided: S
Now, the teacher knows that the child has mastered beginning sounds and looks at the “wrong” answer puzzled. Having a rapport with her student, she casually brings up the topic at lunch. “Well,” Lucy explains, “Since the fish was swimming upstream, it’s obviously a SALMON.” And thus, her score will be negatively affected.
One Kindergarten boy, who recently welcomed a his new baby brother into the family, was presented this question.
His mother’s heart warmed at his choice (B) – also the “wrong” answer for the standardized test, but certainly the right choice for their family.
The experience of taking the standardized test has been a wonderful experience at our school, providing not only an accounting for a child’s academic understanding, but also a glimpse at each child’s critical thinking skills. Standardized Test results are only a small part of a larger picture. When children are taught to arrive at the same answer- when teachers are rewarded by scores creating a standardized thought process- therein lies the danger.