Just STOP testing children.

Standards-based testing is unfair, unreliable, untimely, cruel, and contributing to a nation-wide teacher shortage.

About once a month from June to August 2017, my oldest daughter and I engaged in the same dialogue:

Oldest Daughter: “Did I get my state scores yet?”

Mom: “No, not yet.”

After New York State finally released the tests results in late August 2017, the New York State Board of Regents approved the renaming of the Common Core Learning Standards to become the Next Generation Learning Standards.

So what?

Who cares?

The new standards will be phased in during the 2020 school year — the testing of students on those “new” standards commencing in 2021. Read the article below with the smiling quasi-politician’s face. There is no cause for jubilation. The testing of children, the standard-based system, and the New York State’s APPR teaching rating value-added model is educational malpractice. 

Bianca Tanis, an activist, and co-founder of the New York State Allies for Public Education writes in the article below about the travesty of re-branding the Common Core Standards.

 

In her article, Tanis rightfully points out the lack of one crucial word in the Pre-K-2 New York State Next Generation Standards: PLAY. Any child psychologist will tell you the necessity for play. And yet, research be damned. Tanis writes:

“Children are meant to move and explore, and sadly these standards ensure an increased focus on direct instruction and rug time.”

Although Pre-K-2 students do not take the New York State tests, there is, of course, enormous pressure on those Pre-K-2 teachers to prepare their students for future rigor. Kindergarten now resembles first grade — making Pre-K the new Kindergarten. Our children are being forced to race to the top, with developmentally inappropriate standards. Furthermore, when tested from third to eighth grade, students must be reading and demonstrating mathematical skills above these new definitions of grade level expectations to ever hope to earn a score of a “4,” the highest rating. The fact is below twenty percent of students in any cohort, statewide, have ever earned “4s” on these state exams. The results are not stellar. Our children are not learning more and performing at a higher level. Instead, they are learning to bubble answer sheets in a futile attempt to earn a “2,” or above, on an unreliable measure of their knowledge and intellect.

My daughters were in the Grade 3 and Grade 6 cohort scores in the graph above. My oldest daughter, for whom Common Core was thrusted on her beginning in third grade, has not scored above a “2” on the two ELA tests she took or a “3” on the two Math tests. She opted-out of the tests during her fourth and fifth grade years — so I have no data for those years. However, what does the data really demonstrate? When she did take the ELA exam (in third and sixth grades) she earned a high “2” each time. According to the assessment results she is struggling to meet grade-level expectations in ELA. What? According to the graph above, 38% of current seventh graders scored a “2.” Does this mean that they need remediation? According to these assessments, my honor roll student is not meeting grade-level expectations? My daughter, who earned a 98% on her sixth grade social studies final exam, is not able to earn a “4” on her ELA exam? More importantly, my daughter will feel incredibly hurt when she learns her score of a “2,” again. Although I will tell her to disregard the results, she will define herself by that score. I cannot hide her score from my oldest daughter — it is on her School Tools account, which she checks regularly. As educators and parents we are sending our children a mixed message: “Do your best kid, but don’t worry about the results.”

Not only is it cruel that students sat for eight days of testing (which has been reduced to six days this school year), the test results were not reported until September. Teachers and students have no way to inform instruction or learn anything of value from these results. What did these tests give New York State’s students except six to eight days of lost instruction for a testing system that has no benefit to education? Taxpayers should be outraged at the wasted resources.

Moreover, teachers do not enter the profession to give tests, especially standardized assessments. Steven Singer, teacher, writer, and BAT activist, writes about the torture of administering useless state assessments in the state of Pennsylvania in his piece, “A Teacher’s Dilemma: Take a Stand Against Testing or Keep Abusing Children,” linked below:

 

Singer actually had to administer a Pennsylvania state assessment during the first month of school! Like the New York State ELA and Math tests given in the spring, Singer notes that the Pennsylvania tests offer no beneficial data. In his piece, he juxtaposes a dynamic lesson to a day of testing — there is no comparison. Ultimately, Singer demonstrates an extremely frustrating and demoralizing layer of “teacher life” that is due to the reliance on standardized testing. Singer writes the truth, when he states:

“And every year the mandates get more restrictive, the teaching gets a little less and the testing a bit more….I feel so alone here.”

You are not alone Steven Singer. There are 3.1 million public school teachers in America, most of whom face the challenges of crafting lessons in the midst of ridiculous standards and standard-based tests. We must resist — individually and collectively. The standard-based movement was built on a false narrative — one that claims teachers and public schools are failing. The state test results confirm that failure. But is not a true story. Schools are not failing. America is not ruined. If we stop believing the rhetoric of politicians who just want reelection, and the false promises of corporate reformers who only seek money, we can return to teaching and learning. Stop the testing! Change the conversation.

Furthermore, the reliance on teacher evaluations based on a standardized test results is not only cruel and unusual punishment for a false narrative, the reliance on the test and punish model is encouraging teachers to leave the profession and discouraging young people from entering teaching. Judy Tabor Smizik, writes in “On Programs, Broken Promises and Why We Aren’t Finland,”

“Not investing in teachers’ professional capacities — which means giving them the time, resources and supports to collaboratively learn and deepen their understanding of both content and pedagogical craft, not training them to implement a program — flies right in the face of what top-rated systems, like Finland’s, have done to produce change. Those systems all used what Canadian educator and writer Michael Fullan calls “effective drivers” for whole system reform. These include a commitment to develop the entire teaching profession, a belief in teacher ownership, and trust and respect for teachers. Accountability, on the other hand, which he defines as “using test results and teacher appraisal to reward or punish teachers and schools” is at the top of his list of “wrong drivers.”

 

To borrow Smizik’s words, standardized testing does not invest in teacher’s professional capacities. The craft of teaching is lost to the demands of helping students meet the test requirements. The loss of dynamic pedagogy is appalling. The use of modules and worksheets to discuss novels lacks creativity and leads to student disinterest. The disregard for the mastery of multiplication facts causes students to lack fluency in mathematics. (These are just two examples — teachers in every grade level can offer more.) New York and other states can change the name of the standards, but it does not change the outcome: students are overly tested using developmentally inappropriate standards with substandard outcomes.

Stop. Testing. Children. 

When we do, real learning can return.

#whyweM4PE

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