At different times over the past three years, I have written posts, or started to write posts, and for some reason I haven’t been able to work some of them out. For one reason or another, the idea wasn’t finished or at least not at the level where I felt it was good enough to publish. I have recently had the desire to go back and finish some of those posts, so this week, I am going to finish 5 posts that have been sitting in my draft folder for a while, in some cases, over two years. I picked five that I wanted to finish, maybe not the best, but ones that I needed to work out and take the time to finish because they meant something to me. Today’s post was originally written on January 20th, 2013, and I am very clear on why I didn’t publish this one – I value my job. All week, whatever I had written will be in italics and then I will add to the post to finish it. Kathy Melton is joining me in this week long return to posts we never finished, her blog can be found here.
Its such an exciting time in education. I love the conversations going on about how we can improve our systems and create a better educational experience for our students. Every day on twitter, I see excited and committed professionals discussing personalized learning, educational technology, inclusion, differentiation and so much more. I also see many people discussing assessment.
The biggest theme I see discussed is change, and let’s be honest, we are in the midst of major changes. Many schools are no longer purchasing textbooks, teachers are exploring ways to go without paper, classrooms are often comprised of flexible learning spaces rather than desks and chairs assembled in rows. The hours of a school day and the traditional school calendar itself are being reviewed and changes considered. I can’t honestly think of an area of education that we aren’t looking at changing. And what are we basing these changes on? Research. Plain and simple, we are learning what helps improve our system and we are taking that research into account when we make the decisions about how to run our schools and divisions.
Like I said, what a great time to be involved in education as we take the steps forward to improve. So why then, do we not apply this same type of thinking to our standardized tests. We are beyond teaching students things they can easily google, so recall of knowledge is not really the type of higher order thinking we are aspiring to, yet we continue to assess our students using a measure that only addresses that level of thinking. We talk about how we want our education system to help develop our students for the real world, yet very few people perform these type of tasks anymore. Textbooks, paper, desks are going away, why not these archaic tests.
I wonder how we get rid of standardized tests? Does it take elected officials in our government? I wonder how long we’ll wait for that to happen. Will it be public opinion? I think that would take a lot of work on our part to educate our parents and I’m not sure we have the resources or personnel to make that happen quickly. Does it take brave division leaders to make a stand? That’s probably the most likely, but it would take someone very brave to stand up and be the first to stand up and say no.
It’s a shame that when it comes to this area, change will take longer than it should. It doesn’t make sense to keep this practice going, but sometimes breaking with tradition is difficult. I hope we aren’t waiting too long.
Well it turned out, it did take active professionals, elected officials, and vocal division leaders all working together and because of their work, these tests will be gone in the next few years. At the time I wrote this post, the news of phasing out our province’s Provincial Achievement Tests had not yet been reported. When I was done writing this post back then I thought no matter how much I tempered my message, and trust me – I did temper it, it could still be said that I was undermining what we were doing in our division. I decided not to post it, and it sat in my drafts until now.
Now I feel it is ok to share how I was feeling. I was frustrated, and I wanted to challenge someone to step up and fight against the tests, someone with more influence than me. I think there are a lot of educators who felt this way and for a long time. A lot of the time, probably 60-70% of the time, I am inspired to write because I am working something out and I need a space to put my challenge in words so that I can better understand what I am struggling with. I publish them to share my journey, to gather valuable feedback from my PLN, and to hopefully bring some guidance to someone who is in a similar place as I am. Writing this post back in January helped me to understand my frustrations, but I made the decision that the sharing side of writing would have to wait on this one until a time it wouldn’t be an issue. A post perfect for this Draft Week project.