The last few weeks I have been studying in preparation for my Praxis tests. For those of you that don’t know, these are the tests that have to be taken (and passed) as part of teacher certification. The more I studied, the more frustrated I became. In the last year, through my conversations on Twitter, attending and meeting fellow educators at conferences and my own personal learning, I have learned more about teaching and what happens in the classroom than anywhere else. And so much of what I learned was being disregarded in place of regurgitating answers and filling in bubbles. The more I studied, the more concerned I became about the “right answer.” What made my studying even more frustrating was knowing at the same time members of my learning communities were engaged in creative, powerful and meaningful conversations.
Nowhere in my study guides were mentions of teacher collaboration, integrating technology in the classroom or fostering 21st century skills, to name a few. I found myself wondering if everything I learned could be represented on this test. How could filling in bubbles measure if I was going to be a good teacher or not? How could this test measure my ability to make connections between ideas and theories and help my students do the same? The entire experience of studying and taking standardized tests has helped me to sympathize with regularly-tested students: students who don’t test well; students who can produce brilliant work with a little freedom; students who have interests and passions that aren’t tested. Focusing solely on testing can cause us to miss out on the wealth of knowledge and talents within our students.