With all the chatter about the common core and testing I have again been reminded of what it means to be “college-ready.” One thing I learned in all the courses I took on the validity and reliability of testing was that if we only used test results for their intended purpose we would be safe from having any one test measure the success or failure of our students.
I recall learning that my daughter could begin to take the PSAT’s when she was in the seventh grade. Prior to that I did not know there was a practice period of testing that came before the actual TEST. Allowing her to begin to participate in the process early on gave her a sense of power over the exam, raising her self-efficacy over time. First of all, in the beginning it was for practice, the test had no consequences other than for her to become familiar with standardized testing, time constraints, and any anxiety that might accompany test-taking. Over time, as she familiarized herself with the test, she was able to self-regulate. She would set goals, self-monitor her performance, and then reflect on whether or not the strategies she used led to a performance that was successful (or unsuccessful). By beginning this process almost three years prior to the PSAT’s, she was able to approach the even more critical SAT’s with a calmness that was not necessarily her own, but that of a prepared student. This is not true for many of our learners, who meet the PSAT for the first time in the ninth grade, cannot afford tutors for content or instruction in strategic test taking, and as a result do poorly on the SAT’s and are not able to enter higher education.
Practice in taking standardized tests can allow our students to plan and evaluate their performance using self regulation strategies from the earliest grades. Rather than emphasize the score on the test, we should consider emphasizing which test taking strategies are being measured, and whether or not using them has an impact on performance. The common core community is beginning to realize that the validity and reliability of the standardized testing associated with the common core is not credible; it requires a transition phase (at the very least). Taking time to evaluate the reliability and validity of the new measures is critical to the success of standardized testing.