LETTER TO THE EDITOR: In Support of Teachers, One Parent Opts Out of SOLs

| May 22, 2015 | 0 Comments | Opinions

Principal Bill Bixby of Gar-field High School joined others at the May 2 School Board meeting to propose a pilot program to eliminate end of semester exams.

by Beth Williams

Dear Teacher,

My child will not participate in the state standardized testing.

I refuse to believe my child or any student’s educational destiny should be determined (or even shaped) by evaluating a single grade on a single standardized test taken on a single day. I also refuse to believe your skills as a teacher are best measured using such a test.

For nearly four years, I was honored to serve as vice president on the school board of a large district in Texas serving about 24,000 students. I spent countless hours researching standardized tests. My decision wasn’t made lightly.

I have no doubt my child would pass the test. But that’s not the point. I have no doubt about your abilities as a teacher. You’ve clearly made a difference in my child’s life and education in these last eight months. My child is learning and growing beautifully. I get a report card every six weeks and progress reports during that same period. It’s been easy to follow my child’s progress in real-time through our online school portal.

I don’t need a stressful, high stakes, one-size-fits-all, poorly written test to tell me what I already know. You’re an excellent teacher. You’re a professional and should be treated as such. Standardized tests take power and freedom from your hands. They undermine your integrity and your ability to teach. My child pays the price.

High stakes tests don’t help you to help my child at all. The results come in during the final days of the school year or even during the summer when it’s too late to help my child.

State testing is principally punitive: it punishes you, your co-workers, your students, and schools that don’t achieve good scores on these tests. Poor test scores can keep strong students back and label a strong teacher like you as “ineffective” regardless of the real life feedback from your principal and students. When you’re rewarded for high test scores and punished for low ones, how can the tests themselves not become the focus of your classroom.

The problem with public education is NOT a lack of money in state or federal budgets. It’s where we spend our dollars. A teacher in a classroom like you will always have a far greater impact on a student’s learning and life success than a standardized test.

While every state rushes to pay the companies that govern these ill-written and ambiguous tests, every state is grossly under funding our public schools.  They’re underpaying you. They’re forcing you to work harder with increasing class sizes. Unfunded mandates are becoming more plentiful then teachers! This must stop. It’s time to put dollars in classrooms not in tests.

Your class time isn’t your own anymore. It’s robbed from you and from your students. There is no time to nurture their precious desire to learn. While you spend so much time prepping for mediocre, valueless exams, students are losing so much more than recess.

I’m not for throwing out tests altogether. Schools and teachers must be held accountable for our children’s education. However, we’ve oscillated so far to one side that there’s no longer equilibrium. We must get the balance back. We must ignite a spark and a passion in our children for life-long learning before it’s too late, before we live in a very dark and dismal world.

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”  – Socrates

This post is the opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bristow Beat, its editorial staff, reporters, or sponsors. 

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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