Friday, April 8, 2011

Nurture or the Test...

A teacher writes in Edweek that she feels torn between preparing students for the test and really nurturing them.

I am neither a fan nor opponent of standardized testing....Tests serve a particular and narrow purpose, and thought of rightly I can be perfectly comfortable using them.

I am befuddled, though, that the tests and nurturing children are mutually exclusive. I have no doubt that they overlap, but only some. I can't see they are totally exclusive. Another author in Edweek has just argued that the kids who read with enthusiasm do well on the reading-based tests (which in so many ways means all the subject tests).

To say that the tests and nurturing are mutually exclusive is to say that the testing process actually captures or evaluates NOTHING of what real nurturing teaching produces.

It seems to me that good teaching will, in fact, produce at least some learning outcomes that will be captured on the test. Ideally (IDEALLY), the test should capture evidence that teachers have done a good job nurturing a child. Nurture well and widely, create good outcomes, and the test becomes something of an afterthought.

(I agree, by the way, that the tests do not accomplish this ideal very well. I'm only saying that it is not impossible that the test could so capture a decent portion of the 'right' stuff.)


Stephen said...

I am a former educator (elementary) and parent (ages 6 & 9)and I am here to say that testing and nurturing ARE damn near mutually exclusive. Here in Texas, kids will be taking the TAKS test next week (April 26 & 27). It is horrific to see the sort of junk my son brings home weekly. Stacks of worksheets where students read the culturally neutral (boring) passage and answer the questions. Assignments like this that were once used to evaluate reading abilities are now used almost exclusively as instructional materials. Forget about quality and engaging literature which might actually nurture the learner; students are constantly subjected to practice tests and learning test-taking strategies.

Andrew Milton said...

I think you're fundamentally right, though I don't know that it MUST be so. Better tests could be created, though probably not in the same format as most are now.
Also, I wonder if the nurture problem is more serious in elementary than middle school. The need for nuturing might begin to drop off with age...?