I know why many teachers are anti-testing. It’s for the same reasons that I use to dread the weight of testing hanging over my head. In a word: fear.
It’s a complicated set of fears, though. In escalating order:
“How can I influence what happens on testing day if a student doesn’t feel like performing?”
“How can my students perform if I don’t have time to teach all curriculum?”
“How can I be held accountable for students who recently transferred / don’t speak fluent English / Have IEP’s / have traumatic backgrounds, etc.?”
“And with all of these issues, how can my career be held hostage to a test score that seems to be out of my control?”
STRESS! In spades. It’s no wonder that anti-testing attitudes develop. And that’s just in regard to your own consequences. Now add in the consequences for the children, who you see wilting under the pressure of constant, year-long testing.
Now you have stress plus sympathy, or even guilt for being the master tester in their lives.
But. (You knew there was a “but” coming, right?)
Children’s needs trump teacher needs
I think that I write pretty convincingly on my Classroom Caboodle website and in my test preparation book. But there is no way I’m going to convince any administrator or politician anywhere to cut down on testing. Your influence will very likely be limited, as well, although I encourage you to make the case to your local district in whatever way you are called to. More on that below.
But. (Here it is!) This is super, super important:
No teacher ever has the right to take out their fear, anger or frustration with testing on their students. Period.
Teachers should never use children as proxies for fighting their own battles. We must make school safe for children in all regards, including creating an environment that is safe from the mental stress of testing negativity.
Which is why this book is filled with lots of ways to be positive in all matters of testing. Kids love positive teachers – even when they are doing difficult things. No, especially when they are doing difficult things.
Students tax their brains during big tests. It fries their little synapses to think so hard for so long. Should we be adding a layer of “unhappy teachers with a negative attitude” to that stress? Not on my watch! Or yours, if you want their scores to improve.
This is important, as I said, so let’s keep stepping through the whole thing.
The only appropriate approach for a teacher with a deeply-held anti-testing attitude is this:
They can be anti-testing everywhere except the inside of their school.
It's not enough to be anti-testing “anywhere except the inside of their classroom.” No, in order for your own students to truly outperform, there can be no public negative testing attitudes on school grounds. Not even a little bit.
Teachers should express their anti-testing viewpoint only where it will actually have some effect, such as to a union rep or to their district administration. They can even express it on their personal social media, blogs or other online activities. Just never to the children inside their school, and not to their children’s parents, either.
Public negativity inside your school building might make you feel better for a bit, but it will not reduce the amount of tests your students take. It will just poison the well that the students and other staff are drinking from.
Notice here that I keep saying public complaining. Let’s be honest: everyone vents at work, and teachers are no exception. But controlled venting is the key. I once had a wise principal who encouraged each teacher to find ONE safe person to vent to at work. Just one. Not a group. One.
And the venting was to take place in their rooms with the door closed and no students or other teachers present.
When that classroom door opened, the venting session was over. No exceptions. If something needed to be discussed in greater depth, that’s why this principal had an open door policy.
So, choose your ventee. Bend her ear until it nearly breaks off. Get it out of your system. Then give the kids every ounce of great teacher attitude they deserve.
Don’t have any good candidates for your personal sounding board? You can use my contact form to send me a note. Anything to help you stay positive for your kids. Seriously!
Video example: math test prep and motivation
ALL testing requires a positive attitude
The proper positive testing attitude must extend to all testing, not just year-end standardized testing or benchmark testing. You want students to improve on big tests? Well, elementary students can’t just turn a good attitude on or off, depending upon the test they are taking.
So if you are serious about this, it’s all or nothing when it comes to your testing attitude.
Positive, positive, positive or don’t bother
Kids know in our current environment that testing is important. It is part of the business of “doing school”. So don’t browbeat them and be stern in order to get them to take it seriously, then think that you are projecting a positive, pro-testing attitude.
Threatening kids to “get serious” is never the way to achieve great test performance from them. It is far more productive to take the “show how much you've learned” approach.