Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who else opposes standardized testing?

The following is a comment I posted on another blog, A Principal's Reflections, in response to a letter he posted from a mother to NYCDOE, and his call for other's thoughts.  He writes:

"With all of this being said, what are your thoughts on standardized testing, it's role in education, impact on students, and the data being used to evaluate educators? Is this the direction that educational reform should be headed in? As a parent of two young children my response is a resounding NO!"

My comment:
I am an educator and mother in Iowa.  They are currently considering legislation to put in place end of the year assessments to decide whether a student should go on or not.  I am vehemently opposed to this!  The time, energy and resources used to administer, grade, and assess the tests would be better used to teach my children.  Is it not the professional teacher's job to assess my child in their class?  Is it not the professional, well trained teacher, who knows how my child learns in their classroom and whether or not they have mastered the skills necessary to pass on to the next grade?  When it comes down to it, I intend to be a thorn in the side of my school district, as I will do everything in my power to keep my children away from these pointless, time and money wasting, damage inflicting tests!  Even if it means risking my job.
Because schools are given federal and state funding, there are strings attached.  The government needs to make sure the schools are being held accountable, and they see testing as the most effective way to do this.  But they miss the trees (the individual student, who learns differently and at different rates) for the forest (the general overall achievement of a school district that is receiving the money).  I feel part of the solution is to give control back to local authority, and let teachers just teach.  The job of the principal, administrators, and local school board is to evaluate their teachers, and help them be the most effective teachers for their students.  I see this as getting into the classrooms more, working closely with teachers, offering effective criticism, and not assigning curriculum based on what is on these tests.  Effective teaching cannot be evaluated with these tests, it takes getting into the classroom and knowing the students individually, to determine if it is happening.  To judge this, they need to see the "aha moments", the connections, the creation, the higher level thinking being demonstrated in the actual classroom (and sometimes out of the classroom).  This requires smaller class sizes, a professional learning community of expert teachers and active administrators working together and communicating.  It also requires trust that all these people are actually going to do their professional job.  That is up to the boss to determine if this is happening.
And finally, school is not just about mastering a set of knowledge based skills in each class.  The most important life skill a student can take away from k-12 education is learning to learn.  This is a skill that will last a lifetime.  Knowing how to regurgitate information for a standardized test is perhaps a skill that may only be used by statisticians and politicians, who unfortunately seem to be the ones in control of reform.
A question for you: Why do I see so much resistance to standardized testing from the teaching profession in my own community, in the media, and online, and yet this is still the direction we are going in?  Why are we not being listened to?

So if you feel like passing these thoughts on to our legislators in the great state of Iowa, feel free to send them my link.

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