Monday, March 25, 2013

Disruption to Standardized Testing

Alberta is revisiting the notion of standardized testing, known as provincial achievement tests, in grades 3, 6, and 9.  According the Edmonton Journal on March 24,2013 ( it appears there is interest in shifting the exams from content based to competency based. I am pleased to hear there is less emphasis on regurgitating facts and increased emphasis on application. However, I was really hoping for a complete disruption to standardized tests.

Similar to other educators, I have typical questions about standardized testing.  I recognize that simply asking these questions will not cause a disruption to standardized testing.   
  •    Is it necessary to continue testing ALL students in particular grades across the entire province or could sample testing provide similar results?
  • A teacher already informs the parents about student progress (with much more detail than one exam can provide), so what is the purpose of the standardized test?
  • An increasing amount of students are using personally owned devices regularly for learning and demonstrating their learning. Will contemporary standardized tests continue to demand students use old technologies (paper/pen, CD, etc.)?
  • What are some strategies to help alleviate the increased anxiety for students writing standardized tests?
  • What format will be used to test application of learning?
  • Are there also changes for the high school diploma exams (weighted 50% of grade) on the horizon?

I will offer an uncommon testing scenario to stimulate discussion about disrupting standardized testing.

A middle school child was extremely excited to be nominated to write an exam.  The child prepared for the exam individually and in discussion with a teacher at the school providing mentorship.  Preparation for the exam involved practicing the competencies at school and engaging in some self-directed time at home reviewing the related content.  The exam was scheduled on a non-instructional day.  The parent dropped off the child at school for the exam and the child was beyond excitement to have this opportunity to write the exam.  When the parent returned to the school, two hours later, the child came beaming out of the school with a grin ear-to-ear and proudly carrying a type written sheet.  The child immediately read the letter that was written as part of the exam process.  

This is a true story about my child when he was nominated to write an exam in order to receive a patrol award.  How often are kids asked to write a letter about themselves providing evidence of their competencies as part of an exam? How often are kids this excited about writing exams?  

What are your ideas for disrupting standardized tests?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cursive vs. Digital Dilemma

Cursive vs. Digital Dilemma
When writing a keepsake letter to your child in the digital age, is it important to pull out the ink pen and hand write the letter in cursive writing or use a digital option?  This is a question I asked other parents engaging in a similar task.  Some thought it might be more meaningful for the child to receive a written-by-hand letter.  Imagine the child opening the letter years later and saying, “Wow, this letter was written by mom” or “This is in mom’s handwriting.”  Some parents also believe it needs to be hand written to prove the authenticity of the author.  In contrast, other parents wondered if the child would even be able to read their handwriting.  I look at my own handwriting and I can barely read it!  Would a child get so frustrated trying to decipher and read the handwriting and the letter would not get completely read or the message would be lost? 
So, I asked my child – “Would you prefer to receive a letter from your mom written-by-hand in cursive writing or in digital format? “ With no hesitation, the response was DIGITAL.  The following reasons were provided for selecting a digital letter versus handwritten letter:
  • -        Looks like you put more time and effort into it
  • -        Easier to read
  • -        You can send the file to me right away
  • -        You could embed media into the file so it’s not just words
  • -        The content of the letter is what makes it “written by mom” not the handwriting and not the signature at the bottom.
Why would you choose digital or handwritten format to write a keepsake letter?