Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Standardized Testing and a Parent's Choice

I hope that all of you were able to squeeze in at least a little relaxation time over the break.  It is hard to believe but we are about two months away from the end of the school year already and I am having a hard time wrapping my head around that.

Standardized Testing: As we enter what has been coined "testing time", I wanted to take a moment to publicly answer a question that I have received many times this school year: What do I think about standardized testing and parents choosing to have their children opt-out of state testing?

A Parent's Right: These questions are more complicated than they seem. For starters, I think that every parent has a right to direct and care for their children as they see fit. With that being said, I would not advise a parent to have their child opt-out of testing. The information that the classroom teacher obtains from testing is used to make "individualized" education plans for children. This can actually help a classroom to run more efficiently and can help a student receive the instruction that they need to receive instead of being blanketed with information because strength and growth areas are not known.  I will certainly honor a parent request but would make it clear in the student record that we as a school have had our ability to work with their child compromised by the wishes of the parent.

Common Core Learning Standards:  New York State assessments reflect information that has come from the new Common Core Learning Standards. It is not a stretch to believe that results are going to be lower than usual for at least this year. This is because the correct, aligned, curriculum is not available (especially in math), and our teachers are teaching what they can find to the students. This will level off next year as curriculum becomes more available. Also, if many parents elect to have their students be "absent from testing", the school could fall out of compliance with New York State which could cause teachers to be moved (up to 50%), and that is not productive either. Any score on a New York State assessment is not going to, and has not, impacted college placement four to eight years down the road. My 14 years of Superintendent experience tells me this. This does not mean that sitting in front of a test and not knowing the information is not stressful. It is, but I blame that on lack of curriculum more than the test itself.

Personally speaking, I think the lack of curriculum is a larger problem than standardized tests. If we had adequate curriculum, it was taught correctly, and students were as prepared as possible for "testing time", we would probably not be talking about opting out of testing.

I am also an officer of the State Education Department, and we have been directed to administer examinations. My failure to comply would be an act of insubordination and with these initiatives being so early in the development stage I do not want to play the insubordination card at this time. If we are still talking about a lack of curriculum and students not being prepared NEXT year, I will most likely be singing a different tune and my inner rebel will present itself. (To read a state guidance document on testing, click here.)

Because this is a blog and not a book, I have not touched on the impact of the professional performance review process or the impact of the Common Core Learning Standards on the way things "used" to be in a traditional classroom.  These are very important topics, and I will write about them later when I have more space.

Have a great week!