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A Call for Balance

A Call for Balance
JohnEric Advento

A call for balance, as we consider the snapshot provided by the ERB

We administered the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) once again this year to our Grades 3, 4 and 5 students, completing this process in our second year after a long hiatus due to COVID. Last week, I led a Lower School Coffee and Conversation for our Grades 3, 4 and 5 parents. This blog post helps to share some of the discussion highlights during our talk and serves as a reference for those who were not able to attend. 

We all agree that there is not one assessment that will tell parents about their child as a learner. As a school, we are partners in your child’s education. This complex puzzle comprises teachers’ feedback, report cards with narratives, subject matter tests, evaluated pieces of sample work, and personal observations.

There are more than 2,000 member schools and districts around the world that utilize the ERB. And while we know that the ERB is just one standardized test, W+H has had a long history of administering it from grades 3-8. Standardized tests have long been a staple in educational assessment, offering a seemingly objective measure of a student's knowledge and capabilities. However, the overemphasis on these tests in education systems worldwide has sparked a growing debate about their true significance and impact. While standardized tests can provide valuable insights, it is crucial to recognize their limitations and advocate for a more balanced approach to evaluating students' abilities. To this day, when my son was going through the college acceptance process, there were several colleges and universities that had “Test Optional” procedures, meaning that it was not necessary to turn in SAT or ACT scores for consideration.    

There are some limitations of standardized tests. One of the primary criticisms of standardized tests is their narrow focus on specific subjects and skills. These exams often prioritize rote memorization and regurgitation of facts over critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. In the real world, success is often determined by a combination of skills that go beyond what standardized tests can measure.

The intense emphasis on standardized tests can create a high-stakes environment that places immense pressure on students. This pressure can lead to stress, anxiety, and even mental health issues, negatively impacting the overall well-being of students. Additionally, the focus on test preparation often leads to a narrowing of the curriculum, with teachers prioritizing test-related content over a more comprehensive and diverse range of subjects. I emphasized that we, as a school, DO NOT do this. We do not "teach to the test.” It is clear to us as educators that this narrow focus can hinder the development of critical thinking, creativity, and a love for learning. On the contrary, we are intentional in fostering a holistic and enriching learning experience for students. 

We recognize that standardized tests, when used appropriately, can offer valuable insights into a student's academic strengths and weaknesses. However, a more comprehensive and balanced approach to assessment is necessary to provide a more accurate representation of a student's abilities.

We know that a holistic evaluation considers a variety of factors, including project-based assessments, teacher evaluations, extracurricular activities, and real-world applications of knowledge. Such an approach enables a more nuanced understanding of a student's capabilities, recognizing and celebrating diverse talents beyond what standardized tests can measure.

There is no doubt that we discussed the importance of triangulating the data from this minor ERB snapshot, with more weight given to the observations that you see as parents at home and the anecdotal records captured by our teachers in the classroom. By promoting a more balanced and inclusive evaluation system, we can better support students in their academic journey and foster a love for learning that extends beyond the confines of standardized testing.