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Standardized Testing in a Vibrant Learning Community

Jesse blog

“What if education … is not primarily about the absorption of ideas and information, but about the formation of hearts and desires? …What if education wasn’t first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love?” This is the case made by James K.A. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom. Christian educators contributing to the collection of essays in Teaching and Christian Practices (compiled by David Smith) have also encouraged us to look closely at current testing and grading practices. These educators suggest that we are teaching students to love seeing “A+” at the top of their own tests and papers instead of teaching them to love what they learn when their ideas and efforts fail or when they go out of their own way to help someone else. Faith-based educators are not the only ones concerned about testing practices in American schools. Public school leaders recognize the many downsides of testing requirements imposed by top-down Federal regulations, such as No Child Left Behind. Education journals are full of research about how our testing and grading systems teach students to overvalue their ability to follow directions, sit still, and cram information into their short-term memories. At the same time, these tests burden teachers with artificial objectives. There is even a long-standing debate about whether college placement exams (such as the SAT and ACT) provide any meaningful predictions about success in college (see here and here, for example).

While we are aware of these serious concerns, Logos Academy has always recognized the benefits of a wide variety of testing mechanisms as tools in the hands of loving educators. Alongside our many curricular assessments, we utilize a full array of standardized tests and screenings. [1]

We are committed to staying informed about the best tools to make us stronger and to help our students learn to compete confidently and effectively in the real world. However, we also know that these tools can poison our school life together if they grow out of proportion and push aside more important things. As long as our vibrant learning community prioritizes the partnerships between parents and teachers as well as the celebration of all the good things that don’t show up in gradebooks (such as generous friendships and creative achievements), we can keep students focused on loving others, learning the valuable lessons of failure, appreciating their community, and enjoying the exploration of the wonderful world where God has placed us.

Contemporary society tends to force everything into polarized categories (i.e. competing political parties, faith communities, and educational solutions) instead of recognizing the complex connections and relative priorities that exist across all areas of human life. We don’t have to make a choice between the liberal arts vs. STEM studies (science and math) or between rigorous testing and a lively school culture. We do, however, need to live carefully and to reflect on the priorities and the personal sacrifices that allow us all to enjoy the best things by keeping them in the right place within our hearts.

We are proud that all of our seniors have been accepted into strong colleges and universities for a second year in a row (with this year’s seniors committed to the University of Pittsburgh, York College, and Temple University as well as having been accepted into many other schools including Towson University, Old Dominion, Virginia Union University, and Albright College). We know that success in testing is one key part of this track record. However, we are even more grateful for the character of our seniors (such as that recently recognized in Andrew Radzik for his leadership on the William Penn track team).

I will share more in future posts about the many testing and assessment tools used by Logos Academy. Although these tools are vital to our success, we will always depend on parents, teachers, and students who recognize the value of everything that does not make it into a report card or a standardized test report. Each day at Logos Academy is filled with an incredible variety of good gifts from our loving God. Learning to see and appreciate these will always be our highest priority.

  1. MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) through the NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association), DIBELS Next (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills), DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment), easyCBM (Curriculum-Based Measurement), AIMSweb (Academic Improvement Measurement System), and W-APT (WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test, an English language proficiency screener required by the state for all students with a second language in their home)
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