From our mailbag. Dublin teacher Kevin Griffin writes:
On Monday the Dispatch Editorial Board once again wrote about education and showed that they just don’t get it. Or maybe they have seen that 15 other states have either delayed common core implementation or pulled out of the common core completely. Their dim-witted conclusion that we must have high stakes standardized tests to rank teachers and schools shows that they miss every important aspect of the testing conversation as it relates to the most important of the stakeholders, the children.
Parents should have the right to opt their child out of any state mandated standardized test. After all, isn’t the educational choice movement about (a-hem) choice. They may do this, not because of the common core, but because of the high stakes the politicians have attached to these tests.
Because of the high stakes attached to these tests teachers are teaching useless test taking skills as opposed to relevant content area. This goes completely against the “career readiness” we hear so much about from the corporate education reformers.
Since tests are being used in teacher evaluations, and will ultimately be used to rank teachers, the testing climate has changed the school environment. Teachers, either by choice or by administrative mandate, are teaching test taking strategies, giving an abundance of practice tests, or spending time teaching-to-the-test to raise scores, not because they believe it is what is best for the children.
Schools have changed their entire structure, removing curriculum and courses like music, art, and health to focus on what’s on the test. We are no longer teaching the whole child, but rather what the testing companies like Pearson and PARCC have decided is important enough to test.
The next problem with the tests is their reliability. The tests are being used in a “value-added model” (VAM) to evaluate teachers. The theory is that this complex and secretive formula can measure how much “value” a teacher adds to student learning. However an April 8th, 2014 study released by the American Statistical Association (ASA) denouncing VAM to evaluate teachers states “Ideally, tests should fully measure student achievement with respect to the curriculum objectives and content standards adopted by the state, in both breadth and depth. In practice, no test meets this stringent standard.”
The ASA report also points out that test scores do not measure a students level of creativity and that outside factors such as class size and the number of high needs students in a classroom can also have an effect of students test scores.
The Dispatch’s opinion piece also fails to recognize that the number one way to predict a student’s standardized test score is to look at their poverty level. Education policy expert Dr. Diane Ravitch has written that she can easily predict a schools’ testing outcomes based on their zip code. 50% of Ohio’s school age children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Why is it that hunger, sickness, and a stable home life are being dismissed as non-factors?
Why would a parent choose to opt out their child out of standardized tests? Maybe it’s because they don’t want the testing companies to have so much data on their kids. Maybe they know the tests are unreliable. Maybe they don’t believe the testing companies should be in charge of our classrooms. Maybe they trust that the teachers know what is best for their children without a bubblesheet exam. Maybe they know that teachers don’t want or need all these tests. Or maybe they just want their child to be well rounded and happy and to actually enjoy school.