Thoughts on Testing – 2

I know we can’t get rid of all testing in schools. It would be like removing one of the eyeballs (the only one?) from a monster. He wouldn’t like it.

But the testing monster doesn’t see very well in the first place, with his vision limited to, precisely, only what he can see, which is not much in the case of foreign language education.

At least in other subjects of study there is some correlation and accuracy of results to be gained from testing, but in our field if one really understands the research, it’s just a dumb thing to do, and it tears down confidence in both teachers and students.

A little testing is great, but it would have to be formative, because the kids’ psychological make-up is such that they expect to be tested. But those longitudinal summative tests are jokes and we all know it. Why?

Read the research about how people acquire languages, then try to build a case for summative assessment. You can’t, any more than you can test a five year old on how much of their first language they know. Oh, it’s in there, but you can’t measure it. Silly us!

Here is the kicker, and it’s a big kicker with a size 13 shoe with metal cleats on it: We in language education – only when we use comprehensible input well – don’t need to test. We don’t.

I’m going to repeat that. When a child walks into our room and we start talking in a way that everyone can completely understand, and everyone else in the room seems to be having a good time, then that one child who is in their to throw shade on our class by their suck vibe and the way they sit, that kid can’t help but listen. It’s like they can’t stand in the rain and not get wet either.

So during this next decade why don’t we push for muchless summative testing in our buildings? Give everyone a break. Save some district money. Give a few quick quizzes. Use a rubric based on the Interpersonal Skill of the Three Modes of Communication of ACTFL. Live a little.



4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Testing – 2”

  1. So sorry to leave this comment here, since I has nothing to do with what you’re talking about. But, I can’t find the profile button or account settings so that I can change my password, and I know I’m going to forget that other crazy password. I just signed up. Help! I tried to follow the instructions, and was able to login, but I can’t find the profile button or account settings.

  2. Cynthia the only way I know how to do it is email me with the new password and I will do it. A popular password is krashen. Or ci. I thought it was possible in the tutorials link above but all that does is let you put a pin in for your location. So just email me at and I will be glad to take care of it.

  3. I agree, I don’t think we need to worry about testing in WL classrooms. I have a question for you, though. What are your thoughts on the STAMP or AAPPL? Many people are advocating for these tests to give students a non-biased assessment of their profiency. I don’t think we need them them if we can get teachers who are professional, get a lot of PD and know the ACTFL levels. I personally don’t think they are a good way of measuring profiency as they are artificial settings and some kids get so stressed in preparing for them. But many at my school are advocating for them due to the overseas living that our families do. That it would help to place students better in their next school.

  4. Hey Dana. Sometimes I think I’m crazy bc the way I personally understand the research is that when all the kids get is input and it all goes into the unconscious faculty of our students minds then how can it be measured?

    So any testing at all is in my mind bogus, except for the assessment instruments we’ve been talking about here over the years, which aren’t tests (dictée, free writes, even quick quizzes bc they are and should be ultra easy and given to develop confidence more than be used to assess levels of proficiency).

    This became for me a point of contentiousness w my WL supervisor in Denver Public Schools (which as a Gates district is heavily funded and has spent many millions on testing just in WL). They enjoy talking about proficiency as if it’s even possible to attain any meaningful levels of it in a four year program*. They forget a point of supreme importance that most kids don’t take it seriously.

    If kids don’t take it seriously, then how is a test on proficiency in any way valid? What they’ve done w all the proficiency talk, in my opinion, is figure out a way to label skills in what would compare to labeling language skills in kids who are from 0 to 5 years old. Too early for that.

    School admins/ACTFL – all of those people who are more important than teachers – need labels. They like labels. The have them now in the proficiency guidelines. This guarantees their existence as overseers. I think it’s wasteful of tax dollars and gives false reads. Nobody agrees with me, but I know one thing: if we didn’t make up all those lame excuses like “need it for placement at the next level” we might all see that, when seen in terms of the research about how ppl acquire languages, it’s bogus.

    It sounds like a hippy thing to say, but I am serious when I say that the real way that I measure proficiency is in the quality of interaction I have with my students in class. It’s like in Bhutan when they measure their GNP in happiness of the people.

    The real proficiency measurement in my view how many kids like the class and sign up for it the next year.

    *It’s like measuring fuel efficiency in a car in the first mile of a 500,000 mile trip and drawing conclusions about mileage for the whole trip. They probably should wait a bit. We’ve made the point here many times that even if we provide input in every minute of a four year program, assuming no one drops out, we still have at the most 1/20 of the time we need for authentic gains in modern languages and 1/50th in languages like Mandarin Chinese. But that little bit of research never gets any traction because they have the funds to test and by god they will test! Here in DPS they get money and build data gathering wings on the district office instead of hiring more teachers.

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