Standardized Tests and Resisting Temptation

Well its ISTEP week (again).  Indiana's standardized test.  Yes, that magical time of the year when students and teachers can unite under a common banner of disdain.  Its also the week that many educators use to justify their traditional "force it down their throat" methods of skill and drill.  I'm not criticizing, I did it for years.  This is a high stakes test--not for the kids, but for the schools and the teachers.  This will determine how we are "graded" and also whether I get a raise next year.  The kids still move on to the next grade.  Its kinda like paying the players of a professional sports team regardless of their performance, but only paying the coaches if the team wins... I could rage against this machine for days, but I digress. 

We start testing on Tuesday, and I was REALLY tempted to use Monday for a blitzkrieg review session.  A futile attempt to cram 54 content standards into a 47 minute class period.  As usual, we didn't cover all of my content this year.  I favor depth over breadth, so kids are unprepared for some of the content questions they will see.  SO, I usually do a last minute refresher the day before.  However, I just started a great project (PBL format) where the students have to devise a historically accurate plan to stop the Mongols

We had a great Need to Know discussion last week and students are diving into the research.  I have momentum, the kids are excited.  I know if I put the project on pause to review for a standardized test, it will take some wind out of the kids sails. I am going to be true to my beliefs and let the cards fall where they may.  Its tough, I have had the highest scores in the county for a few year running.  

This week on my class agenda I said: "...students will take the ISTEP test for 7th grade.  This test will only measure how much they have memorized and a few mapping skills.  The ISTEP test will not measure creativity, collaborative skills, technology literacy, ability to research, deep historical knowledge, current events, global awareness, social concern, curiosity, or the ability to learn."

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