Before my son started Pre-K last year, testing was the last thing on my mind. It never occurred to me that tests would be involved in his education this early on. Having little experience with education nowadays (my son is my oldest), the only tests I could remember were the NYS Regents exams, the SAT, and a vague memory of a random standardized test here or there. And it seems obvious to me that my memory of them is so weak because the emphasis placed on them was much less than it is today.
In school today, our children are faced with more tests than any child in American history. And the results are becoming disastrous, with children dreading school, teachers under duress, and many other aspects of a well-rounded education deteriorating quickly. Please see my last post for more on this and links to some valuable resources on excessive testing.
The grades 3-8 ‘state tests’ in ELA & Math have drawn the most attention over the past year as more and more people across the state question the validity of these tests. Only 31% of students across New York state passed the difficult tests which were recently aligned with the Common Core. And that has led to more people realizing that these forms of standardized assessment are not true indicators of our children’s academic performance. Furthermore, the scores of these tests are being used to judge our teachers, their administrators, and our schools.
Luckily, parents and their children, are leading the way to take back education from the testing strangle-hold and opting out of these exams. An estimated 10,000 students refused last April’s state tests, and we anticipate even higher numbers this year.
I will be posting more about opting out of the state tests in the near future! For now, I’d like to focus on some of the other tests that are being forced upon our children and are stealing valuable classroom hours that could be better spent on authentic instruction and creative endeavors.
With Race to the Top grant money dangled before our eyes, New York state adopted the Common Core Learning Standards before they were even completed, with little to no input from real educators, and no evidence that these new standards were better or were even going to produce results. An important detail that is often overlooked is that our individual districts received very little money. Take my district for example–Morris Central School. We received $32,822 over the course of four years…2010-2014. That’s the end of this year! So, who do you think will be footing the bill very soon? Do you know what your district got? You can find that here.
As part of the criteria for receiving our meager stipends, each LEA (Local Education Agency) submitted for state-approval, their plan for judging their teachers and administrators–their APPR Plan (Annual Professional Performance Review). Although a daunting task, and one that will most certainly make you a duller person, you can find and read your school’s APPR Plan here.
In the APPR Plan, the methods for evaluating teachers is laid out grade by grade, and many times even more standardized tests are implemented. These are tests associated with SLOs (Student Learning Objectives). Testing varies by district as each district chose from a list of state-approved third-party assessment tools. My school chose STAR, a computer-adaptive test (or product rather) produced by a company called Renaissance Learning. Other tests you might encounter are MAP, iReady, AIMSWEB, DIBELS, Terra Nova, and many more.
There is no transparency in the use of these tests. Parents are never informed about what tests are administered or when. It’s up to parents to find out. But you have the right to know what tests you child will face, what they are used for, whether they are used to unfairly judge their teachers, how many hours they consume, and how much they cost. Schedule a meeting with your school’s administration to discuss these issues or use this sample letter to request information.
Please stay tuned for more important posts about testing and opting out. I’ll focus more on the types of testing you’ll need to worry about, why we opted out of STAR, and how to refuse the state tests. In the meantime, join the conversation on Facebook, and start talking about these things will other like-minded individuals!
note: This post is filed under Testing and Documents, where you can use this link to easily find a sample letter requesting information regarding testing from your district.