John Stoffel went to his school board in Indiana and delivered this message. Would you do the same in your district?
A little over two months ago, tragedy unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary. By the next school day, my school had safeguarded every reasonable security measure. Today, our district is still hammering out policy to best ensure our children’s safety.
In years of teaching elementary here, I have always believed our children are nestled safely inside the walls of our schools. However, this year I have become greatly concerned that, while physically safe, we are suffocating each child’s innate curiosity and natural love of learning through excessive, high-stakes testing.
This exponential growth of high stakes testing has created a frenetic, stressful, and wasteful environment that is not conducive to learning. For example, my students took two hours of interim, predictive tests over the last two weeks. By the time we get results and remediation could occur, the ISTEP applied skills testing window will already be upon us. Further, even if remediation was possible, no research supports interim, predictive tests, except research done by the vendors who sell them.
In fact, with the feverish pace we have started assessing our students; we have actually ignored sound research that the testing is harmful.
Last week I had to administer to students a test of 40, multi-digit multiplication problems which were to be attempted in one minute. Brain research shows that these math tests actually result in the altering of neurological pathways as a protective avoidance to stressful, mathematical problems, even later in real life applications. Still, the need to collect data trumped the maxim: “First, do no harm.”
Perhaps even more demoralizing, as a teacher, is that excessive testing has spirited-away the ability to meet the needs of the whole child. Recess has been cut to a bare minimum. Most social studies and science has been axed. Classroom meetings and current events have gone extinct. Even reading aloud to students, with all its richness in virtue, cannot fit in to the demand of many testing or test-prep days.
Last fall, my school received a “D” rating from then State Superintendent Tony Bennett. No one in Bennett’s Department of Education (DOE) could explain exactly how our school received a “D”. Now, everyone from the statehouse to current State Superintendent Glenda Ritz has expressed the A-F grading system is flawed.
I have voiced my concern about the current educational practices to which our grade of a “D” has led. I have been told our school still must show evidence to the state that we are attempting interventions to improve ISTEP scores.
Under those same pretenses, then, let me ask this:
Can you imagine a doctor diagnoses your child with cancer, though he has no evidence, then recommends and demands immediate, intense chemotherapy? Can you imagine being forced to purposely intervene with toxins to slowly poison your child even though you know the diagnosis is wrong?
Now, back to my school – how are we attempting to “cure” our “D” letter grade from the state? More testing. More data-analysis. As a teacher, let me assure you these interventions are toxic.
Current State Superintendent Glenda Ritz must adhere to the detrimental laws put in the books during Tony Bennett’s regime. She has asked current legislators to rework these laws to makes schools accountable in a manner that supports, not forsakes, or schools.
Let me conclude with handing you a copy of a Resolution on High-Stakes testing, which appeals for a drastic reduction to high-stakes testing. I would appreciate our school board’s consideration of such a resolution at some future date to send a message to legislators to work with our current state superintendent. This would serve as the beginning point to eliminating all unnecessary testing as a means to improve our schools.