Do Student Test Scores Gives a Complete Picture of Student Growth?
By Ahmad Amirali

As a teacher, we always expect outstanding performance from our students in the classrooms. To make sure, we devise our lesson plans with tons of interactive and performance as well as paper-based activities. In the end, our differentiated teaching approach ended up on different types of assessment where we measure students’ learning. However, the question is, do these written standardised assessments are giving us (teachers and parents) the clear picture of student learning and growth?

I started to enquire this during my last year teaching ninth grader where one of my students, Aasiya (not a real name) who performed outstandingly in the whole term secure only 40% in her summative assessment. She was devastated about her results, so was her parents and fellow peers. I questioned myself if Aasiya outperformed everyone in the classroom in almost every lesson and tasks; from poster making till poetry writing, she performed outstanding then, what is the overall validity of a test that measures students’ knowledge and learning? Is it fair, to measure students’ academic growth on one or two variables when there are multiple other variables exist that can provide a clear picture of student growth? There could be multiple reasons why Aasiya did not perform well in her final paper-based test. Maybe she took too much stress about the written test and did not sleep at night. Maybe she prepared too much for the written assessment, and during paper, she gets confused which question she attempts first. Maybe after reviewing the questions, she gets too relaxed that she can easily attempt the whole paper in the give duration. Maybe, in the end, she unable to manage her time, and due to the poor time management, she left 40% of the paper unattempted?

These are my assumptions based on the answer sheet of Aasiya because one of the questions which Aasiya unable to answer was about the chart model that she presented in one of the classroom activities. Another reason for these assumptions is when I asked the class after handing them the question paper how the test is? Aasiya was the first one to answer ‘the paper is too easy sir, I can finish it even before the given time’. The confidence in Aasiya’s eyes and excitement in her voice that she will be outperformed everyone again was legit. In the end, again the question is, what is the validity of such standardised test and what is the validity of student performance report card which based on such type of standardised test? Almost every school, emphasised in imposing such periodic benchmark end-of-course assessment which induced not only uneven stress on young minds but also fetches an unclear picture of students’ growth to parents as well as the teachers who witnessed students’ progress and performance whole year.

A recent Australian study published on The Conversation explains that ‘it’s possible to predict the percentages of students who will score proficient or above on some standardized tests…. and we can do this just by looking at some of the important characteristics of the community, rather than factors related to the schools themselves, like student-teacher ratios or teacher quality.’ The situation is likely in Asian countries as well as Pakistan where test scores veiled all other performance variables of the student. Students like Aasiya exist everywhere and so the teachers like me who always want their student achieve most out of their school and become a better human in their lives.  The question is who defines student achievement or, to be specific, WHAT define student achievement?

During parent-teacher meet (PTM), when Aasiya’s parent inquire about her test scores, I showed them the artwork and different tasks completed by Aasiya during the whole term and told them these are the real test scores and if Aasiya continues performing like this she will do great in her life. I believe every teacher would vouch likely for their students.

What are your views about such standardised tests? let me know in the below comment 😊

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