It's that time again... state testing in Colorado. And third grade readers are the first children tested in our state. After two days of testing, I'm reminded again of a Dave Barry quote my coauthors and I used in Put Thinking to the Test (Stenhouse, April 2008), "At one time, the purpose of public schools, at least theoretically was to educate children; now it is to produce higher FCAT scores, by whatever means necessary. If school officials believed that ingesting lizard meat improved FCAT performance, the cafeterias would be serving gecko nuggets." The quote is followed by a wonderful essay by my friend and colleague Cheryl Zimmerman, called, "Education, Fear Factor Style."
Have you read it? It's a courageous essay (we all miss Fear Factor, don't we?), filled with humor, sincerity, and truth. Something we're reminded of this time of year. Take a gander if you missed it (you can read Cheryl's essay online at Stenhouse.com). So many of the lessons we learned during our inquiry and while writing the book come to light at this time of year (and as we found interspersed throughout the year).
If you haven't read the book, consider taking a look. It focuses "test prep" through a different lens without solely relying on mundane test preparation packets (I heard a teacher call them recently "study guides"... but they are still packets). My coauthors and I look closely at the types of strategies students use on a regular basis and how to encourage students to use the same strategies as they become once-a-year test-takers. We look closely at thinking strategies and their role in testing.
Through our inquiry we learned that "we must remain true to what we believe, true to our sense of professional integrity." We ended the book by saying, "We are hopeful that those of you who are trying to change the testing situation in our country won't give up. We are hopeful that those of you who are under administrative pressure to increase scores won't abandon everything you know about your students and their learning. We are hopeful that those of you who have ignored high-stakes testing will become more test savvy. We are hopeful that you won't give in to pressure." So true.