TCAP testing – Stupid trying to get smart

My daughter Lily is a fourth grader at Lowry Elementary School, a Denver Public School. I like the school a lot, her teachers, the fact that its students span a wide range or race and economic backgrounds. But they’ve been wasting her time — and that of all her classmates — for the past two weeks.

Thirty hours of this?

It’s not Lowry’s fault. The issue is a test called the TCAP — the Traditional Colorado Assessment Program. The state Department of Educaiton mandates it for all public-school kids. For the past two weeks, they’ve spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday taking this  test. conservatively, it’ll be 30 hours of oval-filling. During that time, there’s no homework and precious little supplemental classwork. In the interest in improving their education, their education grinds to a halt.

I’m no education expert, but consider: The SAT takes 3 hours and 45 minutes. The ACT takes 3 hours and 25 minutes. The GRE takes 3 hours and 45 minutes. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) takes about five hours. The Colorado bar exam, over two days, spans about nine hours. Yet the TCAP alchemists settled on 30.

Assuming the seven years of TCAP testing (grades 4 through 10) are similarly time-sucking, Lily and her classmates will have wasted 14 weeks of educational experience. That’s almost an entire semester. Fourteen weeks of no new learning at school, of no homework, of sitting at a desk and answering questions. Will it hone their test-taking skills? Sure. Will pounding rocks with a sledgehammer for 210 hours hone my rock-pounding skills? Sure.

I am far from the thick of the testing debate, but how does this make any sense. This is stupid trying to tease out smart.

Never mind competitiveness with kids in Colorado’s private schools who don’t have to suffer such foolishness. And I’ll bet kids in China, India and elsewhere aren’t wasting weeks of their education in front of grinding tests, either.

Testing isn’t the problem — test away. You need to measure to know what to improve. But shorten the TCAP. Get it done in a day, max two. You can get an idea of where these kids are and how their schools are doing with less of a burden on the kids. If two days is good enough for the Colorado Bar Association, it’s good enough for you.

1 Comment

  • beth Posted March 21, 2013 8:54 pm

    Todd, leave it to you to state the obvious and make it ring true! I love this article. My children adore the TCAP because of the wasted time. One child even said,’ this is great, I sit down, fill in bubbles for 10 minutes and then read all day!’ I asked if she even read the questions, she said sometimes, but the sharp pencil and bubbles are much more fun to make patterns with than the stupid questions. She continued, ‘They must think we are really dumb with the questions they ask. We don’t get graded on the test, we just have to show up. I showed up.’ I said my peace about the school being graded, and she pointed out all the other ways the school had been recently assessed. She said most people are smarter than the test, so they look at all the other parts of the school instead.
    I had nothing more to say.

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