The Adverse Effects of High Stakes Testing

I am a parent of two daughters who lives in the suburbs and a veteran teacher who works in an urban city. I have both perspectives in mind when discussing education “reform” and standardized testing.

I am deeply troubled by the direction that education has taken due to mandates by policy makers, especially in the last five years since the implementation of Common Core and the effect “for profit” corporations have had on standardized testing.

I have a distinct perspective that differs from most parents due to the fact that I am a teacher. I have the unique opportunity to see the New York State tests and witness what happens when students take them.

In 2012 I proctored the first Common Core NYS test while my oldest daughter was taking the fourth grade exam. Prior to the test, for the first time, I had heard about the Opt Out movement, however the thought of civil disobedience made my wife and I uncomfortable. We are people who follow the rules. This changed for me when I proctored the test knowing my daughter was taking this developmentally inappropriate exam. We made the wrong choice that year and my daughter paid the price, not only on those days, but much of the year with curricular based on Common Core. We have refused the exams ever since for both of our daughters.

I have been passionate about this movement, especially after attending a presentation by Diane Ravitch at SUNY Purchase. From Wikipedia – Diane Silvers Ravitch is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previously, she was a U.S.Assistant Secretary of Education. She explained to the audience how educational policy was changing and why.  She encouraged civil disobedience.

I have collected the following information while reading articles and discussing education on social media. Most of these ideas are quotes from extraordinary people who are fighting for our children. My intention is to share this information that was scattered on my iPad. I hope this information will help parents new to the concept of civil disobedience join the opt out movement and refuse state tests in order to facilitate change for all children. The current direction that schools are taking is hurting our children and their chances of success in the future. Please take the time to reflect on these ideas.

-Students will be adversely affected by high stakes testing. Tax dollars are being redirected from public schools to testing companies and charter schools. If you don’t fight now our schools and your children will not receive a rich education. The curriculum will narrow and our teacher’s time and your kids’ time, not to mention funding, will go to test prep. How does this benefit our children? This is your opportunity to have a say in the quality of your child’s education. Refuse the test.

-These tests are designed to fail kids. The policy makers can design any outcome they like by using difficult questions or easy questions or balancing the types of questions. NYS common core tests are not the tests (we) parents have taken. Did you take tests that take 3 hours a day or more for 6-8 days from 3rd grade to 8th grade? Protect your children. Refuse these tests.

-The cut scores are not determined by science or research, they are arbitrary.
The common core tests are designed to fail the majority of students and that is exactly what is happening in NY state. The cut scores are not based on science or research, but subjective judgement.

-Testing is used to diagnose kids so they can get the help they need. These tests are given at the end of the year. NYS common core tests have no diagnostic value, which means they have NO VALUE AT ALL.

-Continuing to implement the common core tests means our students spend more time on test prep which narrows the curriculum, and spend less time actually learning. It also cuts back on, or eliminates the arts and other subjects suffer as more time and money goes to testing and test prep. Basically the curriculum in NY is test driven based on developmentally inappropriate common core exams. They suck funding and teaching time out of the curriculum.

-We are test obsessed-
The test scores should be called the family wealth index.
No high-performing nation does it, and neither should we. We are the most over-tested nation in the world, and it’s time to encourage children to sing, dance, play musical instruments, imagine stories, create videos, make science projects, write history papers, think creatively, collaborate, and discover the joy of learning.
Children are much more than a test score.

-Is there always a right answer to every question? Life requires critical thinking and looking beyond the obvious. Don’t penalize people who think differently. Let’s foster creativity. When we place so much emphasis on the right answer, we penalize children who think differently. We crush creativity and reward conformity.
We are squeezing the life out of the curriculum. We’re squeezing the arts out of the curriculum. We’re squeezing curiosity out of the curriculum.

-More than 500 experts signed a letter that the CCSS are developmentally inappropriate.

-Will kids love school if they continue to fail?
Things will change when people take action. Civil disobedience is the only way to get the attention of policy makers.

-People intimately involved with creating or pushing Common Core are making a lot of money despite having demonstrated exactly zero proven success at increasing student achievement.
The real reason for underachievement, which is rarely addressed, is poverty. Schools that have a significant amount of poverty will have low achievement. Bad test scores really comes down to schools that don’t have enough resources to serve the needs of kids.

-A vast social experiment. This is sheer madness! When they speak of reform what they really mean is privatization. When they speak of accountability what the really mean is rigid reliance on standardized testing.

-Isn’t that the point? To reduce the quality of education by mandating these tests and tying them to teacher evaluations. Professional educators cannot do their jobs the way they know best.

-“There is no evidence that evaluating teachers based on gains in student test scores will improve teacher quality. The American Statistical Association estimates teachers affect test scores by a factor of 1% to 14% , and that evaluating teachers by scores may actually reduce quality.”

Reasons to refuse the tests-
1- One size does not fit all. Kids need differentiation.
2- These tests are developmentally inappropriate.
3- They take up valuable time administering and preparing for. They are also very expensive. Our schools can utilize these funds and time much more effectively.
4- They narrow the curriculum.
5- Their validity is questionable. NYS had to disregard some questions.
6- Refusing the tests shows support for your teachers and respect for our schools who are better equipped to make decisions for our kids.
7- They have no diagnostic value which means that they have no value.

If you agree with these idea, then I highly encourage you to share them with your friends and neighbors. Many parents don’t have enough information to make an informed decision and teachers are not allowed to advocate for your kids on school grounds. Unless you see your child’s teacher outside of school, then you will not hear their opinion on standardized tests and how they hurt your child’s educational experience.

If you read the whole article, then I applaud your due diligence on behalf of your child. I sincerely wish you and your family well.

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