Be Careful What You Ask For…

I’ve seen a lot of articles recently on Virginia’s removal of state science tests, and on the House education committee’s upcoming debate about standardized science tests. Links are below.

It almost makes me want to shake people and shout: Do not keep asking for standardized science tests! You might get them! With all the teachers trying to get out from under the thumb of “teaching to the state tests,” with overpacked curricula aimed at overpacked exams given too often, please, please, please, think before you demand yet more testing. People are reacting to the removal of standardized testing as if it were dangerous; it is not. It is freeing.

I realize that people are doing this because they want to make science a priority. Me too. I can see the point that people make about how schools are getting focused around tests to the extent that anything not tested will not be taught. I get where they see that. I do not get giving into it. Demanding that science have its own standardized test locks us into a painful and joyless system. Let’s find another way, one that doesn’t suck the remaining life and spirit out of a beautiful discipline that taught us how to cure disease and sent us to the stars.




About Colin Fredericks

By day I help to create online courses at HarvardX. By night I write roleplaying games.

Posted on March 5, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Oh, I agree Colin. Standardized tests try to help, but they so do not.

  2. So here’s the downside: At many schools, if it’s not tested, it’s not taught. (Or at least, not much.) I’m completely with you on the detrimental effects of standardized tests. Unfortunately, because that’s how schools are graded (and sometimes, how they’re funded), topics that are not tested are not prioritized by administrators. This is, perhaps, compounded by the fact that in my experience, most administrators are not scientists – at the least, I’ve *never* met a principal who was a classroom science teacher.

    • So let’s attack the disease, not the symptom.

      You described it perfectly: “If it’s not tested, it’s not taught” is precisely the problem. If we insist on everything important getting tested in order to force people to teach it, then wen end up with standardized tests in every subject , every year.

      If we can marginalize the existing tests, as far as I’m concerned, that’s like shrinking a cancer. We should not demand more cancer just because other people have it and we feel left out, nor should we stand by when other people get cancer that we can help reduce.

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