Friday, March 28, 2014

Testing: A Slice of American School Life

Testing season is upon many of us when we come back to school after spring break for the final nine weeks. The reality, however, is that testing season has evolved into a year-round venture in the American public school system. Sure, students have been taking tests in schools since education's inception, but high-stakes tests have radically evolved in the last few years. The sheer number and the use of the results are two major components derailing the American public education system.

In February at last count for my high school, 17,643 benchmark tests, end-of-course exams (EOC) and reading retake exams were administered. This number averages to about 5.9 per student  I double-checked my math.  This number indicates that a little over a week of instructional time was lost, was devoted to high-stakes testing or the preparation of high stakes testing via a test, not actual instruction.  Some of these exams were state-mandated and some were district-mandated. District-mandated tests here are given over 2 days each nine weeks for biology, algebra I, and geometry to monitor students' progress toward the EOC that they will actually take in May. The 17,643 tests administered at my school does not include common assessments that are learning community mandated and are created\ used by the professional learning community to monitor students' progress, probably the most useful part of the testing machine since they are teacher-made in most cases.  I also haven't included the reading progress monitoring tests such as the state-mandated FAIR and district mandated SRI and lexile sets.  I just haven't finished counting.  

In Florida, SB 736 mandates that every student including those in kindergarten starting next year will be tested in every single subject including their once-a-week media center class if a certified instructor is teaching it. This law is part of the revised teacher evaluation system. I am afraid to begin counting the cumulative number of tests that a child entering Florida public schools in fall 2014 will encounter. 

In the upcoming weeks, every single student, 2,990 at my school, will take one or more high-stakes test as we truly dive into what was formally known as the fourth nine weeks. Most students, depending on their schedule, will lose more than a week of instruction to testing this year.  The most school-dependent such as my English language learners in tenth grade have already lost 5 weeks of instruction due to testing.  As an educator, I cannot rely on unions to do right by my students. As a parent, I cannot rely on the school system to do right by my child. As a citizen, I cannot rely on the legislators to do right by the American school system. I can use my words.  I must use my words.  What will you do?

1 comment:

  1. It is truly outrageous. I cringe whenever I'm in a meeting and people start talking about more tests or more accountability. I remind them how lucky we are, and what's happening in the States. It is interesting (and horrifying) how people - even the teachers and administrators - not only quietly let this happen (in my system) but ask for it! Of course, this system does have an incredibly strong union, but I don't think they've had to face this reality yet, and I'm hoping they won't. I just keep reminding people. I don't think anything in the States will change until a large number of parents say "enough is enough."


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