Ahern - Why We Should Stop Bashing State Tests - Grant Wiggins, Ed. Leaderhship, March 2010

    This article takes a hard look at results from state tests.Grant Wiggins feels strongly that it is time to stop complaining about tests and simply get better at using those results to drive our instruction.He feels that state tests are far superior to curriculum assessments because those assessments do not ask the types of questions most appropriate to show the best learning.The majority of the questions are low-level (knowledge & comprehension) according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, and never ask higher-order thinking questions.The areas students are weakest at:drawing inferences, drawing conclusions from nonfiction texts, determining main idea, and author’s purpose.This is true across grade levels.

    Mr. Wiggins contends that students are simply learning to regurgitate information without deep understanding.They are not able to take the learning and apply it to new or novel situations.They look at test questions and see some fact or detail from the text, and choose that information as the correct answer.He also feels that all states should provide transparent feedback from the state tests.To quote Mr. Wiggins, “ Release all or most of the tests with item-by-item and school-by-school analyses – and include the percentage of answers chosen for all questions, not just the correct answer.

    We don’t have a state test, but I believe this same attitude could be adopted for the ITBS & ITED test that schools in Iowa take.If educators really looked at the answers kids are giving, they would have a better idea of the processes kids were missing, and use that information to make decisions about instructional needs.In this manner, the test could be used more diagnostically.What we do is worry about the scores, and not the learning of the students.If our instruction really met the needs of the learners, our kids would learn more and scores would go up as a result.