Friday, September 26, 2014

Rage "with" the Testing Machine

Over the past 10+ years in my administrative role, I have seen just how important state tests are in a child's life. Regardless what you believe about standardized testing, it is the gatekeeper to the rest of a child's life. No matter how much you may want to change the legislature's mind about standardized testing, today's kids can't get into college without it, and in states like mine, Texas, "The Test" must be passed in order for any child to graduate from high school.


Raging against the machine is one way to take a stand, but we mustn't do it at the cost of our children's education. Personally, I don't want my children to be taught to a test, but I don't want my children to have teachers who choose to ignore the test either. I want my children to be prepared for college because education has epic impact on the quality of their future.  I want my child to be taught above the test.   For today, the test is a necessity for them to get to college.  It is their proverbial rite of passage.

Let's Take a Test
Here's a multiple choice test question for you. I want to know what is the best pathway to solve an educational quandary that has be plaguing our nation for quite a while. 

Which method would be the best way to prepare kids for the real world while making a significant change to our current system of standardized testing?

A. You can advocate against testing by keeping your children home on testing days.

B. You can say "There's nothing we can do", and continue to live with the machine and prepare kids for the test. 

C.  You can prepare kids of today to be successful in today's system while also actively promoting and advocating for a new and more meaningful method to gauge each student's college or career readiness. 

D. Make a suggestion in the comments below. 

Now let's break down those answers. 

A.  Wrong.  (Win-Lose). While I don't disagree with taking a stand, this decision negatively impacts kids in the process. It tells kids that they don't have to take or pass a test that is a requirement to earn a diploma. 

B. Wrong (Win-Lose). Sure kids will be prepared to pass the test, but the machine will also be reinforced as a best practice to assess kids' preparation for the real world. Nothing changes. 

C. Correct. (Win-win). This answer is the right kind of thinking. Educators with this mindset are preparing kids for life under the current system while proposing progressive changes that will be more beneficial to gauge academic readiness for future generations.

Raging with the Machine is the Democratic Process in Action. 

Having a win-win mindset as opposed to an "either-or" philosophy is exactly what our country was founded upon. If you  want to change education, you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. We must remember all kids still have to meet today's standards.  These governmental requirements are what our kids need for life. Whether you like it or not, this is their reality, and you must make sure it is a positive one for them.  Conversely, you should work feverishly to think about future generations, the skills they will need, and the assessments that will best determine mastery of those skills. Standardized testing has been here for a long time, and there are many people who want to see it continue. Fighting against it will do no good.  Fighting with it and offering plausible solutions is what will ultimately make a lasting and productive impact on all kids and the future of education. . 


  1. I get what you are saying here, John, but my worry is that preparing kids for today's system leaves us with little to no time to create tangible visions of something better.

    I see that in my classroom all the time. I hate testing and have all kinds of ideas about what I'd rather see my students (and my own daughter) doing in schools. But I'm so freaking buried by trying to get my kids prepared for the test that there isn't much time for me to create examples of that more meaningful work that I can use to convince others that we need change.

    I also think that a little outrage is necessary in order to fight back against the right-wing propaganda machine. At least here in NC, whenever educators push against testing, the narrative painted by the Republicans is "that's just crappy teachers who don't want to be held accountable again. Derp-a-derp-Unions. Derp-a-derp-Tenure."

    The truth is that when teachers push against testing, it's because testing hurts kids. And fails communities. We're ready to be held accountable -- but we know damn well that testing holds us accountable for the wrong things.

    Parents and community leaders need to know that. And they need to hear it from practitioners over and over again. Otherwise, we'll never have the political will to demand change from crappy legislatures.

    Any of this make sense?

    1. Bill, I thought of you while writing this post. In my opinion you rage with the test. You are preparing today's kids and their future while offering powerful solutions for what is required to make learning powerful. You advocate for today's and tomorrow's kids. I don't disagree with "pushing against testing". After all that is the democratic process.

      In our state, we are starting a shift from testing as the end all be all. Our graduation rates are increasing and enrollment in college/career pathways is becoming the focus. I attribute that to visionary teachers and leaders, like yourself, who made kids successful but wanted to be held accountable in ways that really matter.

      Business leaders and colleges were on board with that as well. Our system isn't perfect and it has a long way to go, but it is starting to move away from the "single test on a single day" mindset.

      Do you see where I'm coming from?