Saturday, February 7, 2015

Where are the Pro-testers?

John Merrow published an article on the Opt-Out movement and standardized testing in general, called What a Difference a Dash Makes...Pro-Test or Protest? He asked for input and 138 comments later has not had even one person in favor of high-stakes testing. I wonder why?

As a retired teacher who spent 37 years in the Philadelphia School District, I can say all the high-stakes testing has done is make it harder for the kids to learn and the teachers to teach. I left right before the Common Core Standards went into effect. When I began teaching in 1975, or children took one standardized test that took up about four hours of my time to give.
When I left teaching, in fifth grade we were giving standardized benchmarks every 6 weeks to see if the kids were getting ready for the test. We spent one day of each week giving short multiple choice and open-ended tests in every subject. I calculated that we missed more than 20 instructional days of reading (a whole month of school) doing these extra tests and the real tests. That 11% of school time taking standardized tests. But there’s more – The kids that didn’t do well were expected to attend after-school reading and math sessions 4 days a week and not allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities on those days. Three times a year, they took a standardized test in the after-school program to see if they were ready for the big test. By the time they took the REAL test in March/April, they were tested out. In 2012, the kids were enduring 44 hours of testing, not counting the day-to-day tests given by the teacher. 4 hours in 1975 versus 11 times that in 2012. As someone above mentioned, testing kids more often does not make them test better, just like measuring a child daily doesn’t make them grow faster.
The tests are but one problem. Because they are so important to the school/district/state. we have had to change the way we teach. For instance, I discovered a great way to teach Social Studies and make it stick was to use historical fiction. We’d read and discuss and argue and get some understanding of how it was back in the day. The understood the reasons for the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, what it was like in the Great Depression, why child work laws were established, how hard women and people of color fought for the right to vote. No more novels. Now we must only read a chapter in the book and go on to the next standard no matter what. Teaching with novels allowed me to hit two subjects at once and not short shrift either one. Otherwise, there was no time for social studies.
These tests have only exacerbated the problems in the high poverty schools by not addressing the real problem – poverty. Our school had a 90% poverty rate. We needed help with social services, mental health and behavior, clothing and medical care. All that had to be taken care of before the kids could concentrate on the tasks at hand rather than worry about how cold the house was going to be, or if there’d be a hot meal at home or a warm place to sleep.
Tests can be useful, high-stakes tests are useful for nothing. Not for kids, not teachers, not parents, schools, or communities. they have only served to make children stressed and weary and make them hate school, kill any creative drive in the teacher, close schools that the community needs, and take funds away because charter schools supposedly do it better. (Not really!)

Here's Mr. Merrow's blog link. Read it and comment.

Still learning!

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