We tried to warn you what would happen to public education. You were understandably distracted at the onset but there is no excuse for the politicization and privatization that followed. The Class of '14 began school when you conceived a misguided and uninformed NCLB and continued their learning under the politics, quick fixes, and blind obedience to RTTT. And, while there are many causes of the collateral damage wrought on the imagination and wonder of children and the innovation and integrity of the profession, we will look back and see that the root cause unwavering since 2002 was annual high stakes testing.
With respect yet regret,
Because of annual testing…
· Kids take high-stakes tests annually (time, money, pressure)
· Kids who do not yet speak English take two high-stakes tests annually to prove they don’t yet speak English well which hammers at their self-esteem and motivation
· Kids with disabilities feel unnecessary pressure annually taking tests out of reach
· Parents, students, the media, and others place far too much value and pressure on a once a spring one time test as an indicator of progress
· Teachers feel pressure to align curriculum to and teach for the test which narrows the curriculum
· Teachers feel pressure to align curriculum to and teacher for the test– minimizing innovation, using student interests, field trips, etc.
· Teachers, psychologists, and administrators spend far too much valuable planning time on data analyses instead of child development and authentic progress
· Principals feel the pressure to assign more time to core time to testing which eliminates time for art, music, p.e. recess...
· Teachers feel more pressure to align and teach for the test because of it affects their evaluation
· School and district “evaluation” (and the dreaded rankings) drive more pressure to focus on the tests and scores
· The more high stakes testing, the more formative standardized-like testing that goes on duplicating high-stakes testing (and less new instruction)
· Because of the volumes of data, decisions about grants and other school supports and the dreaded rankings are based solely on scores and not comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluations
· Follow the money to testing corporations, text and technology corporations, and data warehouse corporations (and the scary monopolies that do all three)
· The economic opportunity cost is staggering: millions that could have been spent on professional development, staffing, technology, and more
Test students only at the end of year clusters or at transitions from primary to intermediate, intermediate to middle school, middle school to high school, and the junior year – and all of the above go away!
Standardized testing was designed to benchmark how a school is doing, how a cohort of students is doing over a few years period, and how a curriculum is doing (alignment with standards and gaps). It was one of dozens of means of information to see how a child is doing on a percentile basis compared to others.
If it wasn’t for Rod Paige’s Texas Miracle which was no miracle that turned into George Bush’s NCLB whose regulations were developed in the shadow of 9/11 that labeled schools as failures and diverted more funds to private interests and charter school which eight years later became President Obama’s higher stakes by RTTT to compete for desperately needed funds… we wouldn’t be stifling children’s learning experiences and what I call “school the way it oughta be” in order to pass tests.
Periodic testing is (potentially) valuable.
Annual testing is devastating.
One courageous decision could improve the quality and integrity of public education dramatically (and save millions of dollars, self-esteems, innovating lessons, music programs, quality teachers, and schools). Test only (some students) in grades 5, 8, & 10.