It’s state testing season. It is nobody’s favorite time of the year. We have talked at length about how the state tests, however tedious and inconvenient they may be, are a necessary evil. Because of this, schools, students, and parents should take them seriously. With that being said, schools should not be using them as their main metric for accountability. Every school should have its own internal system for gauging growth and progress.
The obvious question is why? It seems inconvenient and redundant to have multiple testing cycles and various results to weigh and track. It is inconvenient, but it is not redundant. It is important to remember what a state test is; a state test is a catch-all summative assessment that local governments use to evaluate a school’s progress towards standards and benchmarks relative to other schools. The state’s test is not solely for schools. Because of that, it will never serve schools in the way that internal testing could.
Every state test is different, but they all have a number of aspects in common:
State tests measure how a student does at the end of the year not what they do during the year. You only take state tests once a year. That means you aren’t going to capture growth or decline throughout the year. It is possible that a state test could measure an individual student’s growth from one year to the next, but that data is not nearly as valuable as the data generated by quarterly testing or mid-term exams.
You won’t get the results until they are too late to act upon. The state test is an end-of-the-year summative assessment. You won’t get the results before school is out and in most places, you won’t get them before school starts back either. This means that you can’t really use the results to inform teaching or even remediation. these are actions that you CAN do with your own internal testing. There is no need to wait till October for state test results to come out when you can have comprehensive data a week into school.
The results you do get from the tests aren’t particularly helpful. Because the state exams are made for end-of-the-year accountability, their results aren’t exactly conducive for learning. Knowing that students failed is not nearly as useful as know what students failed, or how they failed. Some state tests are starting to include more of that information, but they don’t do it nearly as well as an internal assessment could.
Schools that create their own testing systems are even use a system like NWEA are always ahead of the curve when it comes to knowing where their students stand. It is tempting to use the systems that already exist especially if you are legally obligated to use anyway, but remember they aren’t technically for the schools, and it shows.