A teacher in Illinois writes:
I gave the first Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) the first time it was given many years ago. As the reading teacher at my school, I was in charge of overseeing the first iteration of the test. After my colleague and I had administered the test to the students, which by the way was a Herculean task and became more so as more tests were added every year, we went to the administration of our school and suggested all teachers sign a letter of protest about the waste of time and the money needed to give such poor tests when students had no stake. We were told this was the future.
Up to this point, we had given pre-and post- reading tests to freshmen and seniors, respectively. We compared “apples to apples,” measuring growth in those students who had been with us for four years. We always showed growth in at least 94% for our students.
The ISAT, however, compared one class to another over the years and had a format which was most confusing to students. As more tests were added to the battery, more time was needed for preparation of students, teachers, and administrators. When these tests were required in junior year for students, it became onerous. It was a cloud that loomed over our heads for the entire school year, and we spent hours trying to train our students how take these tests.
Students at the end of their junior year of high school spent two days testing but had no motivation to do well on the Prairie State portion of the tests while everyone was required to take the ACT, especially students who were enrolled in vocational courses. I watched students aimlessly and randomly mark answer sheets, but we were forbidden by the rules of the tests to omit these flawed testing results. Even our brightest students played games with the tests, which we discovered as we analyzed their tests’ results. To further complicate the validity of these tests, in some years, they were not given to students until the end of their senior year.
During that time, many vocational courses were dropped from the curriculum because “all students should be prepared for college.” Our welding, electricity, carpentry, graphic arts, typing, shorthand and office machines classes were phased out. Of course, today we are told that these types of jobs must be outsourced because we have no “trained workers in this country.”
Who profited? Not the children but the Big Business of testing and those wishing to send our jobs out of the country.
I have read about the new round of testing for Core Standards. The test format is even more horrendous and will require hours of coaching to help students understand how to take these tests, and they will not reveal what students know. I am sad by what is happening to the education of our children and teachers.