Sunday, May 31, 2015

"We just want our teachers to teach." A novel idea.

In today's Argus Leader, the paper reported about parents wanting to pull their student's out of testing.  While some claim that it violates constitutional rights...
During an exchange with Sittig, Kvigne refused to sign a form he sent her, and instead defended her right to refuse the test by citing the 14th Amendment and case law.
Others talk about what I consider a much more important issue with testing: does it have any academic value.  As a teacher, I really wonder how much weight I can add to these tests.  There are no consequences for students, so those that get done in 5 minutes on a test that is supposed to take at least 45 minutes, get weighed into and drag down the results of those students that actually try.  There is no consideration for the students that must deal with a very random math problem that has no consequence or basis in their life.  I can not go into any specifics about the test, but ask yourself how hard you would have worked on a test that required a couple of hours of work and you get nothing for doing your best.

Recent news shows that the scores may have some use for those students that care and are thinking of going to higher education.  
Nearly 200 colleges and universities in six states have agreed to let students skip remedial coursework if they reach the college-readiness score on the 2015 Smarter Balanced assessment. 

In the end, the biggest problem is that these tests are not diagnostic tests to help improve schools, but are tools of judgement to belittle schools and teachers.  They only take a snap-shot of a child, but have significant impacts on "measuring" the worth of the child.  There are also several issues with the measurement of tests.  

I wish that we could get beyond the thought of placing so much importance on testing and stay focused on improving education for all.  If politicians would stop worrying about testing and setting standards and worry more about coming up with ways to reduce poverty and  fight inequality, then we could see real improvement in society.  Tim Slekar, an advocate for the opt-out of testing movement was quoted in US News and World Report on March 10, 2015:
"Why are the standards – the first ones we set – not, 'All kids will come to school not hungry, not sick and with access to books?'" Slekar says. "Those are some great standards, but yet those standards we're not allowed to go after."
If politicians would focus on these issues instead of using tests to compare and shame educators, we might see some real progress in society.  I doubt there will be an end to testing anytime soon, but it would be nice for the words of Roger Russell quoted in the Argus Leader to come true:
"I think parents are just getting tired of all the testing," Russell said. "We just want our teachers to teach." (Bold is my emphasis.)
I look forward to hearing what the Blue Ribbon Task Force has about the idea of letting our teachers teach instead of over focusing on testing during the June 16th meeting.

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