Standardized testing is eating education alive, and to what end? The underlying value proposition is strong: test students so you can track their progress, know how efficacious their teachers are, and benchmark one state against another. We’ve come a long way with the tests, and by 2015 the United States will (theoretically) begin administering them all online with the help of companies like PARCC and Smarter Balance.
Yet improving incrementally on this summative and standardized system will not get us where we need to go. Rarely are the tests designed in a way that allow students to demonstrate deep thought, reflection, or knowledge. Moreover, in a world that increasingly cares less about structure and 9-5 work weeks, the tests do not account for different learning or performance styles.
Luckily, the technology tools being developed in education today will gradually replace standardized testing by offering a snapshot of student understanding. Consider the three examples below as replacements for standardized testing, showing progress in grammar, math, and behavior.
Proponents will tell you that a testing environment is good — that, in the real world, students need to perform in a given moment and they need to learn to deal with the stress. From this perspective, allowing performance on tools like Khan Academy or NoRedInk to count makes no sense because students can practice and refine their solutions. Yet the real world is much more forgiving —I am constantly doing drafts of papers, revisions to presentations, and consulting the team when I need help evaluating investment opportunities.
The gradual shift away from standardized testing towards the performance snapshot model will change the conversation from “what was my grade” to “how can I better understand?” And what better goal of primary and secondary education than to have students exit with an inquisitive drive and having learned how to learn?