Letter to the Editor re: Excessive Testing

In case you’re looking for some verbiage about testing, I encourage you to plagiarize my own verbiage below–edit, revise, omit, do whatever, but I’m giving you full permission to pull whatever you’d like/need and send it to your local papers.

My anti-excessive testing letter:

It is always interesting to me that the quality of our education system, as determined by test scores, is defined by individuals far removed from the classroom.  For the most part, educational policies are set by politicians whose only experience in a school system was from kindergarten to 12th grade – which happened ten, twenty, thirty, even forty years ago when we were in a different place and in a different time.

These same individuals seemingly claim to know the cure for all our educational ills: use a high-pressure, high-stakes standardized testing system to identify weaknesses, create mandates to force changes to fix those weaknesses, and once improvements in test scores are evident (either as a result of forced mandates or not), make the test harder, create more mandates, see improvements, revise again.  The cycle is always the same, and the target for learning is always moving.  On the surface, increased scores look like students are learning and improved scores look like the mandates are working, but increased scores can mean a multitude of things.  Yes, it could mean improvements in learning, but at what cost? These increases might also indicate excessive test preparation, test-taking strategy preparation, a narrowed curriculum focused on testable content only, and more.

The field of teaching is shifting and changing.  Teachers today know more about kids and how they learn; they better understand that kids need to learn through experience; they know there are more ways than standardized assessments to evaluate learning; they see students as individual people who come to school with individual issues and have individual needs that go above and beyond what is shown through a single test score.

As standardized testing season comes to an end, I’m asking – and will continue to ask –  if the right people are making decisions about how best to educate our children.  Are they taking into consideration what decades of research says about what is best for children?  Is this the best system for making sure students are learning, or is this the system we simply accept because it is the easiest way to gather quick data and make quick decisions?

Is a system based on excessive repeated testing and constantly moving targets the kind of system that will prepare kids for the world ahead of them?

As submitted to Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Medina Gazette.

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2 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor re: Excessive Testing

  1. Do we know yet if Ohio is going to pay for PARCC baseline tests? I am working on SGM for Eng I, II, and III to convince our principal that mine are better for diagnosis than those MAPs test we had to use this year–MAPs just doesn’t give me the specific info on my kids that I need.
    My sophomores next year are looking at this test regime:
    1. Baseline tests for all courses (usually 6-7 courses)(SGM for SLO teacher eval.)
    2. PSAT in Oct.
    3. Short cycle formative assessments every four weeks for every subject
    4. PARCC ELA and math Performance-based (5 days for these?!)
    5. Speaking and Listening Evaluation
    6. Next Gen science and s/s test–don’t know yet if these are going to be performance-based AND EOC
    7. All 5 OGT tests–March
    8. March-early April PARCC ELA and math EOC
    9. Early April- end of year SGM for teacher SLO eval.
    Don’t know if I have missed anything, but the cost in class time, $$, and test fatigue is unreal. Our principal made me give the MAPs test on the MONDAY after the OGT week tests-how valid are THOSE scores?

    I am retiring next May because I cannot do this to my beloved students–in so many ways it is so wrong-borders on evil. How do we fight this?

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    • As of now, the formative PARCC tests that were to be used in the fall and midyear will not be available. I haven’t heard yet what the future intent for those tests are.

      You raise some interesting points about the validity of teacher-generated SGMs versus standardized assessments created by vendors. I can see the argument from both sides. On one hand, the teacher advocate in me always sees what teachers produce as far exceeding any vendor. I believe teachers are content experts and they deserve more credibility and credence than they are afforded by our culture. But the system isn’t set up to operate this way. The system is set to question teachers, to make them feel incapable of their craft. Vendors can be predatory in how they sell their items as one-size-fits-all approaches to improving student learning. It’s easier for districts (administrators, policymakers) to trust standardized assessments that have been “proven” valid and reliable that it is to deal with the messiness of trusting teachers.

      That being said, I support MAP testing. When I was researching RtI programs at a previous district, I was pulled to the massive amount of data available through MAP. I found it to be so student-specific and parent/teacher-friendly with its computer-adaptive testing capabilities, that I tried to get my district onboard with it. Unfortunately, cost was prohibitive, but it’s expensive because its creator (NWEA) is a nonprofit organization.

      The testing regimen for sophomores is disgusting; I agree. I understand the need for retiring also; education is an institution situated in the pockets of policymakers, and it will not be until the pendulum starts swinging away from corporate bureaucracy that we see any changes.

      Like

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