Oh! These Tests!!?!! One Non-Omniscient Teacher's Perspective

We’ve been in the throes of ‘rigorous’ testing for weeks now.  I’ve watched children try to read passages on numerous topics well-beyond the realm of their possible background knowledge, some with topics that seem to have been unearthed from ‘the most-disengaging-passages-ever’ tombs of old.*  After stumbling through the reading of (some) seemingly endless passages, students are asked questions (again, some) that have adults with master’s degrees scratching their heads.  All along I think, why?  What is this doing to quantify students’ competence as readers, writers, thinkers, speakers and listeners (as if these competencies can ever truly be quantified)?  As the scores roll in, we’re not surprised to see stats like 35% proficient for the third grade.  Not surprised at all.  Yet, we have taught like our "hair’s on fire" this year and, actually, for many years.  The results of these tests don’t scratch the surface in terms of our students’ capabilities or their growth.  It would help if the passages were more engaging and of a reasonable length, and that the questions asked were: a. discernible and b. appropriate for eight year olds and up.  Honestly, looking at some sixth grade questions, I was taken back to the days of my college advanced English classes.  I get ‘rigor,’ but much of this is just stupidity.

It makes me sad to think some of our kids walk away from these tests thinking, “I’m sure not good enough.  I didn’t understand much of that.”  Well, no, actually, kids, “You are good enough.  These tests are not.  And, we don’t understand that.”

In our drive to advance our students’ status across the world, collect data to prove that status, get to the “top of the race,” and involve our children in ‘rigorous education,’ we’ve lost our common-sense.  Yes, we need high standards, but do sixth graders really need to understand omniscient point-of-view and be able to find the exact line(s) from two passages with a total of twenty paragraphs wherein the author shows the reader evidence of this perspective?  (How many texts from the 20th century and beyond are actually written from this perspective, anyway?)  Should third graders be able to dissect and analyze a text to the point of identifying the purpose of paragraph 3 (out of say, 8 paragraphs) and how it contributes to the overall structure of the piece?  Are these items really relevant?

I’m all for looking closely at texts, but looking closely at elements that are appropriate and relevant for the grade level.  I’m more for making sure all our readers are proficient, can engage with text in meaningful ways, love to read, write, speak, listen and think deeply about the meaning of what they’re reading, and who choose to read and write outside of school and for far more than school-ish purposes.

To borrow a line from one of our first grader’s recent opinion pieces, “Who’s with me?” (He’s pictured below.)  Let’s do more reading and writing for real purposes with engaging texts and spend less time preparing for these types of tests.  There’s a lot more at stake here than ‘racing to the top’ of somebody’s educational agenda.  Who do we want our students to be as readers, writers and thinkers?  What do we want them to be able to do as readers, writers and thinkers?  Pick out text evidence for omniscient point-of-view?   

*I’d be happy to share examples, but as you probably know, we are all forbidden to do so.  Or, to talk much of any of it.  In fact, after you read this blog post, you must eat it to dispose of the evidence.

I'm with him!


  1. We're getting ready to test "rigorously" in sixth grade next week. Nothing like a standardized test to take the last two weeks of school! I agree with everything you said. Something has to give! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Tomorrow marks the end of the testing marathon for me (for this year)...the 16th day of hours (ranging from 2-5 hours worth) for students at computers every one of those 16 days. That was in addition to 10 days of paper and pencil testing earlier this spring. That was after the test was "shortened by the legislature. we tested two grades at a time, which works out to each student testing on 8 days. Yes, something has to give!

  3. Something does have to give. This is ridiculous. My state is now testing extensively at every grade level. The time away from teaching is costly in so many ways. Why do we need this much data especially on measures like these?

  4. I don't really feel like eating your blog post right now, so I'll just say "Amen, sister" and move on. Omniscient POV. Blah.

    1. Good one! I don't think it would go down very easily, anyway!

  5. In your heart of hearts, don't you think we will move past this dreary and dark period in education? Maybe I have too positive of an outlook, because I am now retired and not actually "living" this nightmare. I still feel education is attempting to move in the right direction--theoretically and philosophically speaking. Please, please say you have more than a glimmer of hope. Thanks, Janiel

  6. Oh yes, I think there is hope! Of course there is hope! These are our children...and we must have their best interests prevail. I think we are moving in the right direction in many way, too. We just need to get a handle on this testing issue.


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