Center for Creative Energy



Do High Test Scores Really Help?

by Mark Guzdial

Just got this article in my inbox from Computing Education Blog.  If you can, please share it with as many administrators and school board members as possible.  If we want success for our youth here in America, we need to have an honest conversation about our priorities for education.  Testing causes a lot of stress for students, teachers and administrators. This article  made me ask, “Is it worth it?” If our test scores are not reflecting or positively affecting how our students perform in real life, what’s the point? Standardized testing is a great way to see if students as a whole are retaining certain content, but students need to do more with content than retain it. They need to live with it.

Our programs here at the Center for Creative Energy are  project-based, and although we align with state content standards, delivering that content for high test scores is not the goal. We like hands-on and minds-on learning where students get down and dirty with knowledge. (Literally. We spray paint storm drains, catch and identify macroinvertebrates, paint Texas ecoregions with watercolor, create prints about flood and drought in San Angelo, collect dead fish for art installations about dried up reservoirs, and much more.)

Activities like these deliver and reinforce content through participation rather than memorization and recall. It also connects content to real world problems like water conservation here in San Angelo. Project-based curriculum is rooted in the idea that learning is important for a healthy community and successful career. Students also smile a lot during our programs–not only is learning important for a great job, it’s also part of a happy life.

We work directly with our local school district (SAISD) to design and implement all of these programs, and a lot of our content delivery is relieved from effective classroom education. SAMFA and UCRA provide places where students can reinforce and apply content outside the classroom. Are partnerships between schools, museums, and community organizations a way to reach a happy medium between test-prep, content standards, and unique experiences that make learning meaningful in real life?

They could be, but right now it isn’t a perfect system that alleviates all test stress. The Center for Creative Energy often works outside the classroom system to facilitate programs. For example, we switched our audience for Art/Science Fusion from 3rd grade to 2nd because of test prep conflict issues in the spring. Aqua Squad and Camp Odyssey are summer enrichment programs not directly integrated into the classroom.

However, could our programs work during the school year alongside test preparation, even in support of it? Of course. Is trying it worth the risk to schools and administrators who stand to loose funding and jobs because of low performance? Probably not.  Incentive based standardized testing is a reality that every educator has to deal with until policy adjusts to real statistics outlined in great articles like the one above.

For now, we are providing unique art and science programs for as many students as we can. Students who haven’t yet experienced test related stress and those enjoying summer vacation to forget it are the ones who can gain the most from programs that connect learning to a happy life.

To end on a seriously sappy note, here’s a slideshow of happy smiles!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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