This morning I had a student come to me in tears before school started. She had checked her grades on the student portal on her phone while waiting in the morning car line, and she was devastated to discover that she had made an F on a test that she had really studied hard for, both in my resource room and at home. She was so upset and truly shocked.
Unfortunately, I was not shocked. Her Cued Speech transliterator was absent the day the student took the test, so her regular education teacher had her take the test to me so I could cue and read it aloud to her. This granted me a unique opportunity to see the test myself.
Yikes! There were several questions I had to read twice before even I understood what it was asking. Many questions were intentionally designed to be tricky, leading you to think it was looking for one answer when really that information was irrelevant to the actual intent of the question.
I understand that some teachers do this prepare students for college or standardized testing or, perhaps, even for convoluted situations that may occur in real life, but if the point of the assessment was to gauge the students’ current knowledge of the content on the test, then it fell far short of the goal. My student knew her stuff. We studied backwards and forwards together, and I made a Quizlet for her to practice at home. She even had her classmates and younger sister quiz her from the study guide several times, too. She not only memorized the study guide, but she really understood and could apply the information when prompted to. Before seeing the test, I had been confident she’d make an A.
As teachers, I think we need to very carefully analyze how we are writing our tests and why we are writing them that way. What is the goal of the assessment? Our goal should not be to trip up a previously confident student who had put in a ton of effort to learn the information. The goal should be to assess what they know and understand, and we need to make sure we are writing the tests accordingly.
Check out this blog post from Teach 4 the Heart about common mistakes teachers make when writing assessments that can alter the purpose of the assessment:8 Mistakes You May Be Making When Writing Tests. We don’t want students to memorize or guess, but we also don’t want to damage their motivation to continue studying by causing them to fail for reasons other than content understanding.