Monday, May 6, 2013

My 52 Views on High-Stakes Tests

Today marks the second week of NJASK testing here in New Jersey. Grades 5 and 6 began testing this morning, and make-ups are being conducted for 7th and 8th graders that weren't tested last week.  

Last week parents were told that if they insisted on opting out their child's test would be scored a zero and their child would be placed in remedial classes next year.

Reports are coming in today that students are being forced to sit through make-up sessions even though they opted out last week. The only options presented to parents are to keep children home during the make-ups or have their child pulled from class only to sit in front of a blank test booklet. 

NJ opt-outers are attempting to work with administrators to come up with more student-centered solutions for their children.  

Diane Hewlett-Lowrie is one of the brave moms starting an opt-out journey this week. Here is a guest post she wrote clearly demonstrating that New Jersey parents know EXACTLY why they are opting out!  

Generally, I am opposed to high-stakes standardized tests because: 

  • They constitute an undue burden of stress on young children;  
  • They constitute an undue financial burden on schools; 
  • They don’t tell the classroom teacher anything about how well any child learned new skills or topics; 
  • 21st Century skills include cooperation, collaboration, critical thinking, etc. These skills will not be developed in a ‘pass the high-stakes test at all costs’ world;  
  • Teaching students how to do well in these tests will result in this generation of children acquiring skills that are NOT required in the work world they will enter, while losing valuable lessons in the skills they DO require;  
  • Linking test scores to teacher evaluation over such a short time period is inappropriate, untested, untried, still in the developmental stage, not recommended even by the test companies, and will result in the loss of many good teachers;  
  • Linking test scores to teacher evaluation does not take into consideration the top reasons for students doing well in school or not, that is parental involvement and socio-economics; 
  • Linking test scores to teacher evaluation that may result in teachers losing their jobs will result in a lot more pressure on students to perform well in these test;  
  • Good teachers are leaving the profession because they cannot educate the children in an innovative and creative way, meeting the needs of every child - they are being forced to teach-to-the-test;  
  • It is inappropriate to use our children to resolve labor issues;  
  • No professional writer would produce a finished product essay in 30 minutes. Why then ask kids to do this 3 or 4 times in two days?; 
  • Teaching the children how to write a finished essay in 30 minutes is only teaching them how to write to pass this test, it is not teaching the real approach to the writing process;
  • The tests are too heavily weighted in favor of people with strong language arts skills; 
  • Numeracy evaluations are polluted with language arts portions. This is not fair on students who are very strong in math, but weak in writing;  
  • These standardized tests are biased against budding scientists, engineers and mathematicians; 
  • These tests tell children if they can’t write, they can’t excel. Wrong!; 
  • Over-emphasis on testing is narrowing the curriculum in all schools; 
  • Test scores are being used inappropriately to close down schools in poor neighborhoods leading to overcrowding of the schools that remain; 
  • The current tests were never designed to be ‘high stakes, they were supposed to be ‘snapshots’ to let school know if they are on the right track; 
  • Policy makers, legislators, and big business are using “the test” in ways it was never intended to be used; 
  • The high-stakes nature of these tests and the curriculum they assess force teachers to teach subjects and concepts to young children who are not developmentally ready under the guise of being ‘rigorous’; 
  • Too much time that could be spent learning is spent getting ready for the test, or taking tests and this is only going to get worse when there is a test for every subject in every year; 
  • The time, money and other resources that have been spent on establishing these tests could have been better spent on instruction of students and professional development for teachers; 
  • There is inappropriate product placement (aka free advertising) in the tests; 
  • One company seems to have a monopoly on these tests, and therefore the text books. Last week, a passage from Pearson’s text books showed up in a standardized test. MASSIVE conflict of interest; 
  • There is too much emphasis on learning via ‘informational text’ leaving no time for real-life, hands-on, exploratory learning; 
  • There is too much emphasis on learning via text books, leaving no time for field trips, museums, historic sites, environmental education centers, etc; 
  • The writing that is being taught is formulaic – probably because it’s easier to score on a test, not because it’s the best way to write; and 
  • Nobody I know in the real work world has to produce a 5-paragraph persuasive essay in 30 minutes – without being able to research and verify facts via good sources.

Personally, I am opposed to high-stakes standardized tests because

  • Participating in four days of testing is not in the best interests of our child; 
  • Preparing for and participating in four days of testing is destroying our child’s love of learning; 
  • Participating in four days of testing does not help our child’s learning, especially as the neither the teachers nor the parents are permitted to view the completed and graded test; 
  • Preparing for four days of testing takes away from a well-rounded exciting and engaging education; 
  • Our child is good at math, reading, and science, but the test will not show that as it is so heavily weighted with language arts (e.g. writing in words how a math problem was solved); 
  • Our child has a writing disability, yet will be forced to write for hours during these tests. This will cause pain and anxiety; 
  • Our child has a writing disability, yet will be evaluated on writing skills (One does not evaluate a person with a mobility disability on how well they can run); 
  • Our child has a writing disability, but can type very well. He is not able to type his answers on these tests;
  • An education psychologist told us that our child’s brain ‘shuts down’ under high pressure situations, like timed tests, because of a low-performing ‘working memory’. All standardized tests are conducted under pressure with an enforced, unworldly time limit;
  • I refuse to have my child be a part of a research project for a testing/curriculum company; 
  • Please note, our child consistently gets As and Bs on report cards. Our arguments with the standardized tests are not related to our child’s academic ability, but are everything to do with the numerous reasons listed here.

International perspective

  • Other successful developed nations are moving AWAY from this type of ‘education’ because it does not prepare children for the real world; 
  • Wales outlawed national testing under the age of 14; 
  • The Scottish education system uses a balance of continuous assessment, mixed with
  • end-of-year exams, to evaluate learning; 
  • Finland – known to have the best education system in the world - does EXACTLY the OPPOSITE of what are currently doing in the US; 
  • In Finland, teachers are valued and paid as well as doctors – and the students excel; 
  • In Finland, there are no mandated standardized tests, except one at the end of senior
  • year – and the students excel; 
  • In Finland, the teachers are free to mold their own instruction – and the students excel; 
  • The Scottish education system doesn’t have national tests for children under the age of 16; 
  • The Scottish education system evaluates students through assessing them, not teachers; 
  • Teachers in England boycotted the national tests for 11-year-olds because it took away from valuable teaching time and put an undue burden of stress on young children. The United State’s education system and its current direction is becoming the laughing stock of the world. 

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