We have developed a culture obsessed with tests and statistics. And although these may be useful in some instances, it’s perhaps worth questioning how useful they are to our children.
I ask this because tests, both the implementing of them and the results, seem to cause a huge amount of stress and strife to parents, teachers and children. Yet most home schooling families educate their children to a high standard, some achieving top grades and University entrance, without doing any tests at all.
So what are they really worth? And what do they show?
Do they really show that a child is good at something? Or do they show that the child just did well at the subject on that day?
And vice versa; maybe a child has an excellent knowledge of a subject, but doesn’t have good test passing skills or wasn’t able to demonstrate it at the time. So how useful or accurate is the result?
Are we testing understanding – or are we testing a snapshot of memory or performance? Because the style of the test affects the result and nothing accurately shows how good a person is at doing something, other than doing it in a real setting!
And can we really trust the results to show how a child is going to perform in the future when they grow and change so rapidly?
These are the questions we need to be asking because there are so many intangibles tied up with testing.
Another example; a child may have an excellent concept of the subject in question – take science for example, but have very poor literacy skills. Dyslexic children for example have excellent but very specific skills in many areas, but poor ability to demonstrate this through the written form. So what would their results show?
The danger is that, within the narrow format of most test structures, a child may get a ‘poor’ result that is a completely inaccurate assessment of their true ability or potential, yet be labelled ‘poor’ overall. This label can predetermine their forthcoming opportunities and prevent them from reaching their true potential. This is the outcome for many children denied educational opportunity by the self-fulfilling prophecy a test result can become. (See this post)
It is so important that parents understand that children are far more than test results.
However, once labelled or streamed by test results other factors, like where they’re placed within a school or who they’re grouped with, can influence progress and achievement. This is not helpful to children at all. In fact, testing is of very little value to the individual learner and more often has the opposite effect.
The real reason the government is so keen on tests is probably to do with their own obsession with statistics, useful for promoting their party, as statistics can always be manipulated to show what you want them to show and tests can be set up to do the same.
But results rarely advance a child’s progress. It is unlikely that as the result of a test a child has his particular needs attended to in a positive way. It is more likely that segregation, inaccurate and unfortunate prophecies, and a complete waste of teachers and children’s time, are the result.
And a final point; any teacher worth their job is going to know their child’s needs anyway. And should be teaching to individual child’s needs, not inaccurate results.
So maybe it would serve our children better if we stopped obsessing over tests, started questioning and called for an end to a shocking waste of teachers’ and children’s potential.