At this moment my 12 year old daughter is sweating through the EOG tests, otherwise known as the dreaded End Of Grade tests. She's been taking them since she was in the third grade and it seems like every year the pressure increases.
I've never put much faith in standardized testing. In another lifetime, I trained to be a teacher and one of the things I learned is that tests are only as good as the people who put them together. Coming up with test questions that measure the required skills and knowledge of any given grade level is a difficult task.
For example, back when she was in third grade, my daughter brought home an EOG practice test to work on. She was stumped by this question:
Where would you go to find Treasure Island in the library?
The answer was the card catalog.
Now, my daughter was born in 1995. She's never seen a card catalog as they were all replaced by computers before she was born. I pointed this out to her teacher, who thanked me and said that I shouldn't worry, this question wouldn't be on the real test. Since the test is kept secret, I have no way of knowing that there aren't more questions to which the children of the 21st century can't possibly answer.
The whole idea of holding schools "accountable" by measuring students' progress with a one-size-fits-all test is ludicrous. Treating schools like corporations where the best organizations survive and the low performers fall by the wayside is also ludicrous.
When I saw presidential candidate Barack Obama last month, he said that holding schools accountable was a good idea, but instead of punishing the low performing schools, we needed to give them whatever they needed to improve.
My daughter will be glad when the tests are over, as will I. Someday I hope we'll come up with a system for measuring progress that doesn't involve number 2 pencils and filling in grids.