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Overtesting in Tennessee?

Why do we test so much? During the last several years, as I have visited schools in Tennessee I have noticed that there is much more test preparation occurring than there used to be. I have visited classrooms where teachers are using practice manuals for Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) as early as January when to prepare for the testing cycle in late April.
This concerns me for several reasons, the most important two center around avoiding aimless learning in the classroom.

The most worrisome problem I see with this overtesting leads to an almost philosophical question. Do we want students to learn to take tests or do we want students to learn something useful? Despite all of the changes that have taken place over the last several years one thing has not changed: the amount of time students spend at school. The unintended consequence of the testing and accountability movement is that the priority for learning time is going to be to find ways to improve student test scores-whether those test scores represent achievement or not. So teachers are spending time trying to provide state administrators what they want-better test scores, rather than what students need-learning activities to prepare them for life in the 21st century.

Boredom. Are there more things that are interesting for students than learning how choose the right answer on a bubble test? Larry Brendtro (see reclaiming.com for more information about Larry) has often used the term “interest deficit disorder” to describe why some students have difficulty in school. Think about your own level of curiosity and how long it would take to exhaust it by practicing to take multiple choice tests. Do you think children and adolescents can stay interested for several months each year? Now don’t get me wrong, I know that some school activities no matter how dull they may be are necessary. But I continue to question a policy decision that intentionally forces boredom on students where there little real world application.

Maybe what is needed is for citizens to actively stand up and tell political and policy leaders that testing should not drive teaching, learning and curriculum in schools.