Many teachers have come to know this time of the year as state assessment season. In the build up to increasingly high-stakes tests, you can see teachers motivating students through songs, pep rallies, and countless ideas represented on Pinterest. At my school we went as far as having a 24-hour fun day in February to build excitement for the benchmark assessment—“Benchmark Madness.” Even though supervising and engaging children from 7am on a Friday until 7am on Saturday is an exhaustingly crazy idea, we all bought in because we wanted this testing season to seem positive to the kids. As a former teacher, I know that investment from students is half the battle in getting them to show all the learning that happened in an academic year.
This year, many students are taking assessments online for the first time. In my role at Edcite, I see everyday the effort that goes into building confidence and investment into using technology for assessments. But what happens when your investment back fires? For most schools and districts in the state of TN, this is NOT a rhetorical question but a reality they have to deal with now! Many teachers and administrators have successfully prepared students for an online test, but now have to deliver a paper version. The TNReady test was not ready for the students when they began testing earlier this year which led the state to deliver paper assessments to the schools, delaying the start of assessments, disrupting student and staff schedules, and upsetting quite a few. The Tennessee Department of Education states on their website, “While we initially had hoped all our students would be able to take TNReady on a computer or device this year, ultimately we lost confidence in our test provider’s ability to provide students and teachers with a consistently reliable online platform.” Many teachers took their frustration to YouTube, Twitter and other platforms.
Basically, setting my lesson plans on fire would have been more productive than whatever happened this week. #TNNotReady
— Rachel M. Robinson (@rachelmcneely) March 19, 2016
When I consider all of this from the student perspective, it feels even worse. It is hard to imagine being told how important it is to transition to digital versions, and then being told that you won’t be taking your test in that format. One student expressed online that he felt like it was all a waste of time. Although learning is never a waste of time—says the teacher in me—I understand the underwhelming feeling of not being able to show your learning in the digital format you have prepared to use. It’s like preparing to run a marathon, putting in months of practice outdoors, and then race day comes and you’re told to run on a treadmill. I mean, sure my training will be evident, but I was ready to run freely! Students have trained for online assessments, and online should be available.
The education field has accepted that while state assessments can have various purposes, they always comes down to measuring student learning. While the pen and paper assessment may tick the box for giving a state assessment, it falls short of measuring learning in an aligned way. After a year of hard work, an unaligned assessment just isn’t enough. If you prepared and pumped up your students for an online assessment, you should be able to give them one. Edcite is committed to making sure teachers in Tennessee, or any area that runs into trouble with their state assessments, have access to free online summative assessments. Click here to see some of our math and ELA assessments, or create your own!
The state of Tennessee may have opted out of the online assessment, but that doesn’t mean our students can’t opt-in. Alright students, show us this year’s great growth!