Rather than stopping at each state and taking an equal amount of people, this train chooses only "the most qualified" to ride inside. Those not deemed suitable for the ride are left behind at the station. In some states, the car is full, in others, it is empty or nearly empty. The train conductor says that they choose based on ability, when in actuality, their choices are based financially.
In the book, The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future by Linda Darling-Hammond, she claims that performanceo-based testing is more important than multiple choice testing. In states like Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Hew Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming, performance testing was adopted early on. "These assessment evaluate what the student can actually do, not just what they recognize, or guess, out of a list of choices."
Last week, I had the oh-so-enjoyble task of making sure my students took online reading and math tests. One student was done in a manner of two minutes. I was immediately suspicious of this student's scores. When I went into the software to see his results, they were not there. I had him share his screen. I then had to sit and make sure he completed the test. As I watched his cursor float across his screen, I noticed if there were more than two sentences in the question, he did not go back and re-read to find the correct answer. Instead, his cursor floated furiously above the answers and one was selected, seemingly, at random.
When using rigorous, state-adopted curriculum, one would assume that the state testing would reflect this type of thinking in its tests. A multiple choice test does not show what a student is thinking. And it leaves some, behind on the train platform. In school, I have never been good at multiple choice tests. I am a wordsmith. I enjoy writing essays. I will choose essay over multiple choice test any day. Essays allows me to share my thoughts and show my thinking.
But there's a catch.
I went to school in the early 80's through the late 90's. I also attended middle and high schools in one of the wealthiest towns in the state. Nearly every student at the high school had known each other since preschool. I was an outsider who lived in the country 45 minutes away by car (1hr 30min by school bus). I came from an area of "blue collars". No one in my neighborhood was college educated. Some did not make it to or through high school. And many of my friends spoke more than one language at home. We all were bussed to the wealthy town, and were educated there. We would come home exhausted from having lived through a loud, and rowdy, hour and half bus ride through winding roads. We would leave for school at 6:45am and return home at 4:15pm. We were expected to do homework and repeat. Our train barely stopped for us. Our wealthy classmates did not know the advantages they had, just by living within the city's limits. I worked extra hard to keep up with them.
Standardized, multiple choice testing CANNOT be the way we measure success. And our curriculum needs to reflect that as well.
Sarah Magallano teaches 5th grade. She also coaches teachers on integrating art & engineering into their lesson plans.