Testing

The Power of Yet!

  • Testing; What Does It Measure?

    Childhood milestones: How old were the children in your life when they first rolled over, sat up, stood without assistance or took their first steps? Benchmarks are often referred to by parents, caregivers and medical professionals to determine if children are demonstrating appropriate growth. There is a tendency to make comparisons with children of similar ages; however, we know that there are no timelines by which these skills must occur.  By placing a desirable object beside a child they have incentive to roll over.  Parents may even provide a subtle nudge. Just as young children meet developmental milestones at their own rate, students reach academic milestones at individualized rates. When students are provided goals to which they may confidently aspire, they are more apt to work toward those goals.

    Standardized testing measures student performance to an established norm. Unfortunately, mandated standardized testing has taken a risky turn, where comparisons of students' proficiency levels has given way to criticisms of students, teachers, and even some school systems. As a result, testing has earned a bad name and undue, often toxic, stress has been placed on partners of the educational process. Testing for the purpose of comparison and ranking has contributed to a toxic culture which could potentially result in hindrance of academic growth for children of all ability levels. Testing, however, has been a part of the educational process from day one. The problem may not be so much the act of testing, but in the belief system related to the testing.

    If one believes the intention of assessment is to measure growth, not to compare, there is a renewed perception of its use. RCW’s professional development plan has a strong emphasis on data driven decisions by educators. The data comes from various sources, but most of them are assessments, or tests, of varied sorts. By digging deep into student data, educators and students can make informed instructional decisions based on each student’s current abilities. Instruction can be designed based on students’ needs. When the belief system is that “all students can grow” each student is challenged to grow from their existing performance level. A shift in "mindset", a term coined by Carol Dweck (2006), is necessary in our approach to promoting an attitude of growth over simply meeting proficiency.

    A goal of promoting growth for all students is essential. Why would anyone put a ceiling on any student's growth?  For some students a growth challenge is a welcome guest; students may be stimulated to fly beyond their own ideas. For others, challenge may be tedious as simply be satisfied with where they are at. They, however, deserve to be challenged, to do more than simply what seems “good enough.” Finally, some students may struggle with the challenge of growth, because they aren’t growing at the same rate as their peers. Those children, we can encourage with the concept of NOT YET!

    Focusing on growth provides all student, despite their current performance level a challenge.  There is power in the word "yet".  Consider adding the word "yet" to the following statements:

    I don't understand this... Yet.

    I don't know how to tie my shoes... Yet

    I'm not finished... Yet.

    I can't do that... Yet.

    I can't ride a bike... Yet

     

    Yet! A small simple word that shifts the mindset to emphasize growth and hope.

    How old we're you when you rode a bike for the first time without training wheels?  When was the first time you successfully tied your shoes? Do you remember? Does it matter now?

     

    Yours in Education,

    Gina Hagen

     

    * A TED talk by Carol Dweck  presents a beautiful explanation of how a growth mindset is so beneficial for our students. It can be view at https://youtu.be/8hbFXBizwWM