This got me thinking about how harmful a testing culture is for our students. I'm not just talking about standardized high-stakes tests, but all tests that are designed to measure learning out of the context for which that learning needs to be used.
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People always say, "We need tests because life is full of tests." That's nonsense. Life isn't full of tests. It's full of assessments. As an adult, I can count the number of tests I've had to take since college on 1 hand. As adults, we do stuff and either succeed or learn to do something differently the next time. If I make pancakes for my kids, I don't need to pass a test first to do it. I just make them. And if they are awful, I either fix the recipe or get asked to make omelets next time.
That's life. Trial and error.
The vast majority of adults don't take tests, but we are constantly tested (assessed would be a better word), and we get lots of feedback. When we prepare kids for a world of taking tests, we don't prepare them for the real world which will require them to process the feedback they constantly get from their assessments. Testing forces them to see things as black and white, success or failure. It teaches them that either they know something, or they don't. It doesn't teach them to learn what they don't know.
Testing teaches our students not to be the life-long learners that we so often preach about in schools, but upon which we so rarely focus our efforts.
If we really care about our students being life long learners, we need to start assessing them in a way that encourages them to learn from their mistakes. We need to move away from a culture of testing and towards a culture of meaningful, relevant assessment that mirrors what students will see when they leave our schools.