As legislators, educators and parents in my home state of Colorado talked on Wednesday about possible ways to reduce the use of standardized tests, the Ohio Department of Education gave reporters a preview of the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Career) tests that will be given to students in Ohio, Colorado and 18 other states this spring.
In a Cleveland Plain Dealer story about the PARCC tests, Patrick O’Donnell writes:
Today’s presentation and the samples from the spring all point to students having to think about questions and readings more deeply. Questions will often have multiple parts, each digging a level further.
Most questions test students’ reasoning and problem-solving skills, rather than whether they know specific facts.
“This isn’t a memorization test,” said Char Shryock, the curriculum director of the Bay Village schools, in today’s presentation. “This is a concept, skills and how do you apply your knowledge test.”
Shryock heads a state committee of educators trying to explain the tests and Common Core to teachers and parents. Brian Bickley, a math consultant with the Ohio Department of Education, said the new tests should reduce how much teachers feel pressure to “teach to the test.”
“You’re going to see the tests aligned to the teaching,” Bickley said.
A lot of the discussion about testing levels lately seems to be missing that key point from Bickley—that the new tests will be aligned to the new, higher classroom standards.
The problem with the old bubble tests—and what drove a lot of the over-testing discussion—was that they were set against a low bar of memorization-and-regurgitation learning. And teaching to those standards and that kind of test is a waste of precious instructional time and does “suck the oxygen out of the room,” as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pointed out.
But preparing students for a test that measures deep learning—the kind of learning they’ll use in college, in their jobs, in every day of their lives—is not teaching to a test. It’s teaching to success. And the tests are a critical measure of how well our students are being prepared for success.
Here’s hoping that more states will follow Ohio’s lead and provide a thorough preview of their new tests to help inform their discussions about how much testing is the right amount of testing.