Math = Love: My Musings on Testing

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Musings on Testing

It's that dreaded time of year again.

The names are posted on the window of the trophy case to tell my students when to be where for testing.  Today is the last day I have with my students before they test on Monday.


Where has this school year gone?  Each year that I teach, the time seems to go by faster and faster and faster.  It seems like only a couple of months ago that I was debating where to hang posters on my wall.  Now, I'm thinking about taking down all of my decorations for the summer.  My mind is already percolating with all of the new activities I want to create, blog posts I want to write, posters I want to make, and policies I want to change for next year over the summer months.

How will my kids do on their tests on Monday?  I don't know.  I know I've covered all of the concepts.  But, I'm well aware that there are so many concepts that I could have taught in a better way.  I could have connected mathematical ideas better.  I could have challenged my students with more rigorous problems.  I could have done a better job of spiraling through review as the year progressed instead of solely focusing on review since returning from Spring Break.  I learned a lot from implementing full-blown SBG this year for the first time.  And, by that, I mean I made a heap of mistakes.  The order I taught certain topics also made things worse.  However, there are also things that I did a better job of teaching this year than I ever have before.  Let's just say my Algebra 2 students are going to rock the dividing polynomials section of the EOI.  And, we didn't use long division or synthetic division a single time!  I made my Algebra 1 students justify their answers way more than I usually do.  I held students to a higher standard than I have in the past.    

In years past, I would be freaking out right about now.  Will I be freaking out Monday morning?  Yeah.  Do you want to know why?  I'm going to be in a room with my Algebra 1 students who are being forced to take a standardized test.  A test that will tell my school district how well I did my job.  A test that will label my students as smart or dumb.  A test that will make me feel like a success or a failure.  A test that will determine whether my students will be able to graduate with their high school diploma.  A test that my kids will be stressing about because I've spent the entire year reminding them what a big deal it is.  A test that many of my students are already convinced they are going to fail because they've never passed their standardized math tests before.

What if I taught an entire school year without ever mentioning our end of instruction exam?  Could I do that?  What if I tried to convince my students that they should learn math concepts on their own merit instead of forcing them to master concepts because they are tested?  Food for thought...


  1. I think a huge part of the problem is that being able to understand and do math is not the same as being able to pass a test, particularly a computerised multiple choice test, though many decision makers believe they are equivalent. Teachers are told not to teach to the test, though everything incentivises them to.
    I wrote some of my own thoughts (from a non-US perspective) about this last year, if you're interested :)

  2. I understand how you feel about next Monday. I teach Algebra I Recovery to 10th graders. The stakes for me are much higher as my students have taken this test 1-3 times before landing in my class. I'm their last hope. Today was our last day of testing. I pray you and all your students much success next week.

  3. This post struck me. If a dedicated teacher like yourself freaks out about an evaluation, there is clearly a problem with the evaluation. It strikes me that one thing that could (rather easily) make things better is to change the way that the results are reported. You mention students failing every year. But those same students are learning every year. It seems to me that the reports could emphasize the amount a student has learned since last year rather than comparing them to other students.

    For example instead of saying "Genevieve is Below Average" say "Genevieve learned 5 new math concepts this year". Most students learn every year. It is wrong to send a report that marks 1/2 of them as failures.

    I wrote a post about this [1]. I'd be curious to hear your feedback.


  4. Have you done a post on dividing polynomials? I'd love to see more!