If you have a child in a K–12 classroom or are a teacher in a K–12 classroom, it’s testing season. If you have a child in college or teach college, it’s final exam season. It’s actually been testing season for quite awhile. The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) exams were given from January 25 through March 12. Since then, schools have been giving state-mandated assessments, such as the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). or the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program. Advanced Placement® exams (AP exams) run May 3–7 and 10–14, with late testing dates being May 19–21.And for some students there are high school exit exams, college entrance exams, physical fitness exams, etc.
Testing can serve a variety of purposes:
• Learning—Although testing is usually thought of as a recap of what has been previously learned, it can actually be a learning experience itself. A well-conceived question can lead a student to recast what has been learned in a new light, perhaps by achieving a synthesis that could only come after everything else was done.
• Diagnosis—Reading clinicians and speech language pathologists, among others, use various testing tools to help understand students abilities and disabilities in order to make an appropriate plan
• Demonstrating Competency—When the reading clinician or speech language pathologist or other instructor has been successful in work with a student, a test can demonstrate that the goals have been achieved. In addition, sometimes you have to be proficient in A to go on to B, of necessity or because there’s a rule that says you must or because it’s necessary for your own or others’ safety that you have that skill down pat or for some other reason.
• Feedback and Placement—For the student moving to a new school environment or an adult returning to school, a singer joining an school ensemble and a child joining a sports team, a test can help to make decisions between French I and French 2, Algebra and Geometry, Tenor and Baritone, Pitcher and Outfielder.
• Gateway—There are gates in, like college entrance exams, and gates out, like high school exit exams.
• Assessment—Some tests are a certain percentage of a grade for a class, with weight only in that class.
• Accountability—Tests can be used to judge students’ learning and hold teachers, schools, and districts accountable.
With as many uses and styles as it has, testing is an area of some contention. For a greater understanding of some of the questions that have been raised about testing, read our article “Testing Issues.”