Archives for category: Standardized Testing

The Badass Teachers Assiciation declares that as a matter of conscience, they reject standardized tests because they harm and discourage students.

These BATS say:

“We know that we are in the middle of a war, fighting for our schools and our students. One of the tolls in this war is the implementation of high stakes testing. These tests are like weapons, based upon the knowledge that these tests do not accurately measure educational achievement, but are more truly a measurement of the economic characteristics of the student. Today, decisions are being made to divert funds from numerous programs and appropriate staffing levels as districts are rushing to meet technology requirements and implement test practice programs. This money could be better used to increase staffing levels to allow for better student to teacher ratios, implement new programs that increase cultural and global awareness, create services that support the needs of the whole child, and renovate existing school structures that are in desperate need of repair.
“The amount of stress that our students are under has become overwhelming and our schools are becoming less able to help that. As educators it is our moral responsibility to become a shield for our children and protect them from the people that seek to manipulate their education to personally profit at their expense. We have the moral obligation to become conscientious objectors as we remember our responsibility to our students.”

Jeff Bryant explains why test scores plummet when Common Cores tests are given. It is not because our students got dumber, and not because the standards are rigorous, but because the passing marks on the tests were set artificially high. Our kids are not stupid. The tests are.

Paul Thomas here reviews the persistent efforts to persuade the public that American public education is a failure, starting with the Reagan-era report “A Nation at Risk.” Never mind that none of its dire predictions about our economy came true (except for the outsourcing of jobs–not to countries with higher test scores but to countries with lower wages).

 

The Common Core is the latest iteration of the Nation-at-Risk narrative that our country needs higher standards and harder tests or we are doomed.

 

He writes that “Common Core is the problem, not the solution, because it is the source of a powerful drain on public resources in education that are not now invested in conditions related to racial and class inequity in our public schools.”

 

Where I disagree with Thomas is that he thinks it is a distraction to fight against Common Core and a waste of time. No, it is not a waste of time. Common Core and the tests connected to it will artificially cause test scores to collapse. It will label children as “failures” who are not failures at all. Most students, whatever their color, will be stigmatized by tests aligned with an absurd standard of proficiency (aligned with NAEP proficiency, which is equivalent to an A, in my view). Common Core, as Thomas notes, will bring about the transfer of billions of dollars to testing corporations and additional billions to technology companies and consultants. These billions will be drained from the budgets of public schools, meaning less money for essential and necessary educational opportunities.

 

The fight over Common Core brings to a head the confrontation between the accountability policies unleashed by Nation at Risk and policies that are based on the needs of children and concepts of education untainted by standardized testing.

 

 

 

 

Carol Burris, fearless leader of educators and parents opposed to test-based accountability in Néw York, here appraises the record of John King as state commissioner of education in Néw York.

King was appointed last week to be an “advisor” to Arne Duncan. He and Arne are on the same page in their zealous belief in standardized testing, Common Core, and evaluating educators by student scores.

King came to the job with three years of experience in a “no excuses” charter school. He listed his ambitious goals at the outset of his reign. Higher test scores, higher graduation rates, an evaluation system for teachers and principals. Burris demonstrates that he achieved none of his goals and alienated parents and educators with his top-down, tone-deaf approach.

Thanks to King, students in the class of 2022 will have a 30% graduation rate unless his successors reverse King’s policies.

Lee Barrios is a retired Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Louisiana.

Open letter to BESE –

Occasionally, albeit rarely, I receive confirmation that I am not only NOT crazy but that I am correct. Because I always base my actions on evidence and am always open to correction, it doesn’t really surprise me and I sleep well at night.

This BESE, on the other hand, ( 8 of you to be exact) have proven that you have personal agendas and are determined to support the lies of Supt. White and his well known cadre of business and political promoters. You are all very intelligent individuals and have ample opportunity to seek out and understand the truth. I give you no benefit of the doubt.

As I have said repeatedly, you are complicit as proven by your actions. However it is never too late to redeem a modicum of respect and honor by standing up and admitting you have been duped. It appears that now is an appropriate time to do that.

You all and John White have created chaos, pain, suffering, loss of excellent teachers, embarrassment for our state, and REAL damage to the education and lives of our children. You must understand that there can be NO test this spring and that the whole high stakes testing accountability must be overhauled and transformed from a purely punitive weapon to some kind of constructive process. Get rid of all the TFA junkies in LDE and replace them with education experts so that can be accomplished! Begin with Supt. White!

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
Secondary English, Journalism, Gifted
178 Abita Oaks Loop
Abita Springs, Louisiana 70420
http://www.geauxteacher.net

“If a child struggles to clear the high bar at five feet, she will not become a “world class” jumper because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled “jump higher,” or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach.” – – CommonSense

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Myth-of-Average-Todd-Rose-a

“I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”—— Albert Einstein

The weekly report on testing from Bob Schaeffer of Fairtest:

FairTest provides these weekly summaries of news clips and other resources as a tool to build the national assessment reform movement. We encourage parents, educators, students, administrators, community organizers, researchers and other allies to draw on the positive initiatives described in these links as models for their own local campaigns.

If you have similar materials to share, please send them to us for possible inclusion in future editions.

Some States Rush to Tie Common Core Tests to Graduation

http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2014/12/04/three-states-rush-tie-common-core-testing-graduation

California Rethinks How to Report Test Scores

http://edsource.org/2014/state-rethinks-how-to-report-test-scores/70649#.VIIhXC7vcZy

Colorado Legislators Express Bipartisan Skepticism About Testing at Pre-Session Hearing

http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/12/03/testing-standards-skepticism-surface-at-pre-session-legislative-hearing/#.VICAsHvvcZx

Connecticut Working to De-emphasize Testing in School Accountability

http://www.courant.com/education/hc-school-accountability-1204-20141207-story.html?dssReturn&z=33957

Florida School Boards Association Takes a Stand Against Over Testing

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/florida-school-boards-take-a-stand-against-over-testing/2208695

Text of Florida School Boards Resolution

http://www.tampabay.com/resources/documents/2014/12/FSBA_resolution.pdf

Opposition Grows to Illinois’ Use of PARCC Common Core Test

http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/illinois-set-test-common-core-standards

Louisiana Political Struggle Over PARRC Testing Continues

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedes-schneider/parcc-is-down-to-dc-plus-_b_6286010.html

How Massachusetts Teachers Defeated a Test-Based Evaluation Plan

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/11/no-more-backroom-deals/

New Jersey Parents, Teachers Talk About Opting Out of PARCC Test

http://unionnewsdaily.com/news/county/15753

Mom Dares New Jersey Gov. Christie to Defend Common Core Exam After Taking It

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/12/08/mom-to-common-core-task-force-take-the-4th-grade-parcc-practice-test-i-dare-you-to-tell-me-it-makes-sense/

Judging New York’s Education Chancellor By Her Own “Standards”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/12/08/if-teachers-are-judged-by-student-test-scores-how-about-the-state-chancellor/

Ohio’s Harmful Obsession with School Testing

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2014/12/05/1-obsession-with-testing-can-be-harmful.html

PTA in Oklahoma Calls for End to High-Stakes Testing

http://www.news9.com/story/27530693/oklahoma-pta-calls-for-end-to-high-stakes-testing

Oklahoma PTA Resolutions on Testing

http://www.okpta.org/advocacy/2014-convention-resolutions/

Dallas, Texas, School Board Responds to Parents Call for Less Focus on Testing

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20141203-3-dallas-isd-trustees-call-for-reducing-focus-on-testing.ece

What Might a Republican Rewrite of “No Child Left Behind” Look Like?

http://blogs.edweek.org/campaign-k-12/2014/12/what_might_a_republican_no_chi.html

Duncan’s Hammer: Test Scores

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/road-trips-in-education/2014/12/duncans_hammer_test_scores.html

National Secondary School Principals Group Criticizes Value-Added Measurement

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2014/12/principals_group_latest_to_critize_value_added.html

First Step to Close Test Score Gap: Reduce Poverty and Segregation

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2014/12/06/first-step-should-reducing-poverty-segregation/KGXehFsSBLyXB2ri9wUdbL/story.html

To Fix School Problems: Listen to Experienced Education Experts

http://lancasteronline.com/opinion/columnists/to-fix-problems-in-schools-listen-to-the-educational-experts/article_7caf17ca-7a6e-11e4-a57f-a7f0c85121a8.html

Standardized Testing a False Solution to Attacking Educational Racism

http://www.alternet.org/books/people-who-have-experienced-racism-schools-standardized-tests-can-seem-solution-its-not

Beware of Another Standardized Test: This One on Civics

http://contextflorida.com/martin-dcykman-watch-yet-another-standardized-test-one-civics/

Corruption and Cheating Increase with Imposition of School “Accountability” Schemes Says Finnish Expert

https://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2014/12/04/corruption-and-cheating-increases-with-accountability-says-finnish-expert.aspx

The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — forthcoming book available for pre-order now

http://www.anyakamenetz.net/#buy

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

Myra Blackmon, a regular contributor to OnlineAthens (Georgia), here writes about the state’s devotion to failed education policies. If it isn’t working, do more of it:

Blackmon writes:

The clichéd definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. That may be true in some instances, but when it comes to education in Georgia, we have our own special crazy.

While education “reform” is an issue as old as the republic, Georgia’s approaches to it are crazier than any patchwork quilt. We bounce around from one quick fix to the next. We routinely ignore research about what works, and use ideas that have never been tested.

Our legislature tries to micromanage our schools, the governor controls the policy-making state school board and we elect the state school superintendent, who is not required to know anything about education policy or the business of running schools.

We passed a new school funding formula in 1985, adjusted it several times, but never actually appropriated enough money to actually implement it. After 15 or so years of that, our elected representatives decided that there was too much “fat” in the education budget and proceeded to whack away at it.

While piling on new requirements each year, the legislature has slashed some $7.5 billion from a budget that was never fully funded in the first place. We’ve had additional, often severe cuts at the local level triggered by falling property taxes. At the same time, our public school enrollment has grown by more than 246,000 students.

As our student population has grown, we have lost or cut teaching positions. In its 2013 report “Cutting Class to Make Ends Meet,” the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute found Georgia had lost at least 9,000 teachers in four years. And in 2014, we have 2,500 fewer teachers than we had for the 2011-12 school year. The budget cuts have resulted in more than 100 districts with school years shorter than the mandated 180 days. The cumulative reduction in instructional time from budget cuts alone is significant and can produce only a negative impact on student achievement. There are also fewer courses available, thus narrowing opportunities for student growth.

What has been our response to this crisis? First, there was the great outcry about “failing schools,” based on the scores from poorly constructed, invalid tests. From there, we moved on to teacher-bashing, with a loud determination to rid our schools of the mythical hosts of bad teachers. Multitudes of experienced teachers have left the profession and today more than half of new teachers leave the field within their first five years. Surely the bad ones are about gone….

That’s right, we cut money for a decade, complaining all the while about low test scores and then decide to make it all even harder.

The “reformers” are telling us that the solution to our children’s lack of educational achievement is to make it more difficult. Test them more! Then make it harder next year again! Friends, we are buying this snake oil by the gallon. It’s just plain nuts.

Students in grades 3-5 will spend about 30 hours just taking state-mandated tests this year. And that doesn’t include all the practice tests and test preparation time that further reduces their actual learning time. That adds up to several weeks of learning time that could be put to much better use….
.

And while our schools are limping along on life support, we insist on substituting testing for learning, swapping test prep time for projects and enrichment, and setting expectations so high the failure rate is bound to go up. That is what crazy looks like in Georgia. We could stop it if we wanted to.

Myra Blackmon, a local Banner-Herald columnist, works as a freelance writer, consultant and instructional designer.

http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2014-12-06/blackmon-georgias-patchwork-approach-education-isnt-working

Sarah Blaine*, a lawyer and mother in Néw Jersey, took the 4th grade PARCC sample test. She has a daughter in 4th grade. Blaine was outraged by the test questions. She wrote a letter to the members of Governor Christie’s PARCC Task Force and urged them to take the test before they make their recommendations.

She writes:

“I have a fourth grade daughter. She was first identified for our district’s gifted and talented program for English Language Arts in kindergarten, as she came into kindergarten reading chapter books. Her vocabulary and analysis skills remain quite advanced for a child of her age. And I can tell you that she retains the ability to imagine. Do you remember that, the ability to imagine with ease? Do you remember your childhood, when you could create imaginary worlds and people them with imaginary characters just by wishing them into existence? Do you remember building forts and castles that were as real to you as could be? For a moment, for just a moment, I ask you to call upon what is likely your long-stagnated power of imagination. Imagine yourself at nine or ten years old. Imagine your room, imagine your friends, and imagine your school work.

“Then sit down. Keep yourself in your nine or ten year old mindset. Boot up your desktop, or power up your laptop, or unlock your iPad. Navigate to the PARCC website, at parcconline.org. Navigate to the 4th grade English Language Arts PARCC practice test. Open it in front of you, right now, as you read this comment. If you refuse to sit down to take the sample tests yourself, then with all due respect I submit that farcical as this task force — with its 6 week window to issue recommendations — might be, you are not meeting you obligation as member of this task force. Remember as you work through the 4th grade PARCC practice test that you are not your current self — you are still your nine or ten year old self.”

Will they take the challenge? Will they take the test?

*Sarah Blaine was the writer of “Arne’s Worst Idea Yet,” cited on this blog.

Peter Berger teaches English at Weathersfield High School in Vermont. He says that the amount of instructional time wasted for faux professional development days is absurd. Equally absurd is the time and money wasted on consultants touring the latest fad, who never were teachers.

Likewise, the new online Common Core tests are a boon to the tech corporations, but not to the students, who actually write more on paper-and-pencil tests.

“I’ve stood behind my eighth-grade students as they’ve taken several publishers’ Common Core era tests. The directions were convoluted, the questions frequently did “focus on small details” and isolated, obscure bits of literary terminology, rather than on “overall comprehension,” and the questions often were ambiguous. Many were actually indecipherable, with words missing and incorrectly arranged so that students were left asking me what the question meant, and I was left to fill in the syntactical blanks and guess what they were being asked to do.

“The myth that these assessments are scientifically designed to generate meaningful data is insupportable. Any such guarantee is a fraud. Last week’s test was accompanied by a notice that the assessment contractor had added five questions to the test this year, for a total of 20 questions, in order to “provide more accurate test scores and less fluctuation in scores between test windows.”

“In other words, students, teachers, and schools that failed last time, and suffered interventions and sanctions as a result, maybe didn’t fail. Of course, students, teachers, and schools that appeared to succeed maybe didn’t succeed.

“Oh, well.”

Who dreamed up all this nonsense?

This letter arrived in my email from a professor at the University of New Mexico who is deeply disturbed by the over-testing of her children. The president of the local PTA did not want her to speak, she said. Even more shocking was her statement that teachers had to sign a pledge promising not to say anything negative to parents about the PARCC test or to disparage testing in general. I don’t know why, but I was reminded of the loyalty oaths that many teachers were compelled to sign during the McCarthy era in the late 1940s and early 1950s, to “prove” that they were not Communists.

 

 

 

 

Albuquerque PTA Smackdown

 

 

 

 

This is a redacted version of the talk I attempted to deliver at my children’s Elementary School PTA meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Tuesday, November 18, 2014.

 

The former PTA president had suggested that I ask the current president to put Standardized Testing on the agenda for this meeting, so my understanding was that the PTA was inviting me to speak on this topic.

 

In the five days leading up to the meeting, I was intimidated by emails from the PTA president and a phone conversation intended to censor the content of what I was going to present.

 

I knew that teachers’ freedom of speech on the topic of Standardized Testing had been curtailed, but until last week I hadn’t heard of parents being censored on this topic.

 

The president told me that the PTA officers had met in advance of the meeting, and that if they were going to allow me to speak (her words), they had the right to control the parameters of what I might say.

 

When I arrived on Tuesday night, the doors to the building were locked. When my husband, who had been misdirected to another building, managed to get in, he was told not to bother plugging in the projector for my powerpoint presentation, because they were not going to let me finish presenting.

 

While speaking, I was repeatedly interrupted by the PTA president’s attempts to cut me off. When PTA members called out “let her speak,” a vote was called and a majority voted to let me continue. Still, feeling harassed in the hostile environment the PTA president had created, I was only able to read about half of the following:

 

I would like to begin by thanking the PTA officers and the former PTA president for suggesting that I put Standardized Testing on the agenda for this meeting. The current PTA President has asked me to supply you with the means to get more information on this topic, so flyers with links to websites will be handed out.

 

I am Dr. Kimberle López and as Spanish professors at the University of New Mexico here in Albuquerque, my husband and I have had the honor and privilege of having many of this elementary school’s teachers and parents as our students. I am here not representing the PTA but as a parent and private citizen presenting the results of research I have conducted over the past year since attending a meeting at our neighboring elementary school.

 

I present this information so that you can draw your own informed conclusions. First I would like to present a little background on Standardized Testing.

 

The thing is, test scores can be used to argue opposite points, depending on how you interpret cause and effect. If you want to assert that people with lower incomes or different ethnicities are naturally less intelligent, then lower test scores can back you up. But if you say that testing favors those who have economic advantages, you will interpret the correlation between test scores and income level very differently, taking into account that not all students are given equal educational opportunities.

 

The increase in testing over the past decade and a half arose in part as a response to a supposed dramatic rise in test scores in Houston and other parts of Texas, which were soon proven to be the result of lies, cheating, and manipulation of data.

 

When I first learned about No Child Left Behind, what struck me most was that it seemed that when schools did poorly on standardized tests, the plan was to take money away from those schools. That always seemed backwards to me, since aren’t those the schools that need more resources and support?

 

There is a new test for this Spring that is causing a lot of consternation because of a format unlike that of any other large scale high stakes test given before.

 

Standardized Tests are designed from a model of what do kids need to know to go from high school to college into a career, and then that is trickled down into middle school and elementary school exams. The exams are designed and graded by individuals who do not necessarily have any training in child development nor classroom experience with children. The high school model is not developmentally appropriate for young children.

 

The letters ARCC in the acronym PARCC stand for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers, and this is the test that our 3rd through 5th graders will be taking in Spring.

 

The PARCC test is problematic on a technological level since from one question to another students have to switch between typing in answers, clicking on multiple choices, filling in blanks, navigating texts between split screens, dragging and dropping, highlighting, using a drop-down menu, etc.

This involves class issues and institutional racism, since children from affluent families who have their own iPads would be more familiar with dragging and dropping and using drop-down menus than children who live below the poverty line.

 

We all have concerns about “teaching for the test,” but up until this year, those concerns had to do with teachers having to take class time away from more appropriate forms of learning to teach the content of what would be on the tests. But this year with the PARCC a whole new level of concern has arisen—that we need to take time away from classroom instruction to prepare students for the technological format of the test.

 

Some schools in New Mexico have computer labs and computer lab teachers, but not all children across the state have equal access to computers. Many schools across our state don’t even have the computer facilities to administer the PARCC test, much less to prepare student for its technological challenges.

 

In addition to time spent preparing for the test, the administration of the PARCC test will take approximately 10 hours. Ten hours—that is more than twice as long as the MCAT college seniors take to get into Medical School or the LCAT they take to get into Law School.

 

I have heard that the PARCC will take time away from instruction and interrupt the school routine for six weeks in Spring. Even though the kids won’t be taking the test all day, I think we all know that if students are taking tests in the morning, they may not be as receptive to learning in the afternoon.

 

I would like to see our school keep our current high rating, but not because we have an unfair advantage over other kids across the state. Our neighboring school has an “F” rating that is affecting student enrollment, the ability to hire teachers, and property values in their district.

 

Why? Not because it is a bad school with bad teachers, but on the contrary, because they have a magnet Special Education program, and my understanding is that Special Education students must take the standardized tests corresponding to their grade level without reasonable accommodations.

 

Because test scores are tied to Teacher Evaluations and School Rankings, Special Ed teachers are more likely to be rated as “minimally effective,” get lower raises, and the schools that serve the most underserved children are ranked lower and risk having their funding reduced. So again, the kids who need the most help get fewer resources, and the teachers who work the hardest and have the most stressful job are the least rewarded.

 

New Mexico teachers have 50% of their Teacher Evaluation based on student test scores—no other state in the union has a higher percentage, and most count Standardized Testing as a significantly lower percentage of Teacher Evaluations. States risk losing federal funding if they don’t tie Teacher Evaluations to student test scores.

 

The rating of schools using A-F grades is particularly demoralizing to teachers, because teachers took pride in being “A” students when they were in school.

 

Schools having an F rating for a certain number of years risk closure. What is happening across the country is that Standardized Test scores are being used as a pretext to close public schools and then re-open them as corporate-run for-profit schools funded with tax dollars.

 

The process of privatization seems to follow this sequence: first, there appear headlines saying “Our Schools Are Failing.” If they repeat it often enough, we begin to believe it. Then they use Standardized Testing to give failing grades to school, then after a few years they close them and replace them with Corporate Charter Schools. Last year in Chicago alone, 50 public schools were closed, and in Chicago the for-profit corporate charter school industry is booming.

 

When I say corporate charter schools, I am not talking about the grassroots charter schools run by dedicated educators who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and rolled up their sleeves ready to work to contribute to educate our kids and make our communities a better place. No–I am talking about multi-billion dollar corporations that run for-profit schools using our tax dollars.

 

They use the top-down corporate model that pays administrators top dollar while treating teachers like lowly assembly line workers, underpaid and overworked. The administrators making educational decisions are businesspeople not educators.

 

New Mexico, like other states, is moving toward the privatization of education. The privatization of public education means that, like the private prisons, our tax dollars would be used to pay for-profit companies to run our schools.

 

If you haven’t heard about these issues, it may be due to the fact that teachers are discouraged from discussing testing with parents. It surprised me to learn this, since one would think that it would be a professional obligation of teachers to critically examine the tests and discuss them with parents. Instead, it is a taboo subject and teachers are led to believe that they might lose their jobs if they talk to parents about something so relevant to their students’ educational wellbeing. We want teachers to teach our kids critical thinking, but they are discouraged from applying critical thinking to examining the circumstances in which they practice their own profession.

 

[The day after this PTA meeting, I attended a School Board meeting where I learned that New Mexico teachers who would be administering the PARCC had all been obliged to sign a waiver saying that they would not speak disparagingly about the PARCC.]

 

It is because teachers have been intimidated and made to feel fearful about discussing the topic of Standardized Testing that I feel compelled as a parent to speak. Teachers are threatened with losing their jobs, but parents still have the right and the obligation to monitor their children’s education.

 

[I didn’t think that parents were also censored on this topic, but by this time the PTA president had interrupted me several times and was trying to cut me off. A vote was called and a majority voted to let me continue. The PTA president set a timer for two minutes so I didn’t get much further]

 

The topic of Standardized Testing makes teachers very nervous. Students pick up on this, and it makes them nervous as well. Anxiety is running high–although it is only November, kids are already coming home and telling their parents about a big test they will be taking next Spring.

 

What causes a lot of teacher stress is the top-down corporate model of education. The idea is that a school or a school system is basically like a business and should be run like one, with the administrators at the top being paid top dollar and the teachers being not just the lowest paid and least appreciated, but also those whose opinions are least taken into account when educational decisions are made.

 

Instead, decisions that affect our children most are taken by business managers without taking into account input from those who know the most about what is best for our kids, their classroom teachers. I would venture to guess that what is most demoralizing to teachers is not the low wages or the ever increasing workload (teachers are used to being overworked and underpaid) but the fact that the administration fails to draw on teachers’ extensive experience when making decisions that affect our kids.

 

The main reason this corporate model is flawed is that a school is not like a business. A business runs to produce a product and make a profit. Our school system has tried to copy this model with the student as the “product” and the teachers as the assembly line producers. Standardized Testing has grown as its own multi-billion dollar industry in response to the need to measure educational “production.”

 

Standardized Tests have never been proven with independent research (not funded by the publishing companies that produce and sell the tests) to be an accurate measure of students’ knowledge. The only thing Standardized Testing has definitively been proven to have achieved is to have enriched the coffers of the publishing houses that design and produce the tests.

 

New Mexico has dedicated $9.8 million to the online PARCC tests for this Spring, and it has cost our public school system $1.3 million to add a testing coordinator at each of our schools this year. The state reforms are forcing our most experienced teachers out of the classroom while we are adding testing coordinators and computer experts to prepare students for these exams.

 

Ten million dollars could be better spent on something directly contributing to education: 10 million dollars could fund thousands of teacher salaries, buy thousands of computers and hundreds of thousands of books for our schools.

 

Although it is common knowledge that teachers are underpaid and overworked, they are often treated as if they were overpaid and underworked, and each year they are loaded up with new bureaucratic tasks that don’t translate into more meaningful classroom experiences for their students.

 

If you lined up 10 teachers and asked them whether they would prefer to have a higher salary; less work; or the right to have a say in decisions that affect education, and the knowledge that the work they were doing was not bureaucratic busy work but meaningful work that contributes to education, I believe that at least 9 of them would accept their current salary and workload if they knew that they were respected for their experience and their opinions were taken into account in educational decisions.

 

At the meeting over a year ago at our neighboring school, a highly esteemed teacher who works tirelessly for students at our school, said that our “B” rating is due in part to the fact that our faculty have figured out how to say what bureaucracy wants to hear when they fill out the forms set up for ranking schools. Someone in the audience replied that it is unfortunate that we have put our teachers in the position where they have to jump through hoops. Indeed, jumping through hoops is something we train circus animals, not professional educators, to do. It is appalling that teachers need to spend so much time on meaningless bureaucratic tasks, taking time away from doing the meaningful work they were educated and hired to do.

 

Most of us just let this happen because we figure there is nothing we can do about it. The public school system doesn’t make parents aware of the fact that they can opt their children out from testing. And if we do happen to find the opt-out form on line, we read language that aims to “guilt” parents into not signing the form. Our form says that opting out may “hamper instructional planning for my child” but if the tests are taken in Spring and results are not received until the next school year, it is simply not true that these tests help instructional planning for my child, who will be in a different class with a different teacher by the time my kid’s current teacher receives the test scores.

 

Many parents feel torn about “opting out” of standardized testing—even if parents think that opting out is best for our children, they are told that it will hurt our schools. The only reason it would hurt our schools is because the system is arbitrarily set up to base teacher raises and school rankings on standardized test scores. Why should parents be forced to choose between what is best for our schools and what is best for our kids? Shouldn’t what is best for our kids and our schools be the same thing?

 

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