LIVE & LEARN: For the kids? Or for the data?

| May 6, 2015 | 0 Comments | Opinions

liveandlearnlogoStandardized testing in the Commonwealth of Virginia took an interesting turn the past few weeks.  Resolution Number 2015-01 states that students participating in the elementary and middle Standards of Learning tests (Grades 3-8) will have an opportunity for expedited retakes.  There are a few requirements; however, that indicate:

*The student must pass the class associated with the test,

*The student failed the test by any margin (score of 375-399) and has extenuating circumstances that warrant retesting,

*The student did not sit for the regularly scheduled test for legitimate reasons,

*The superintendent will determine what constitutes “extenuating circumstances” and “legitimate reasons,” and

*Parents shall be notified that a retake opportunity is available, a retake will not impact grades, the opt-in requirement, and give consent to retake the SOL test.

My first reaction to this announcement was NO!  Just NO!  Why do we want to put our students through more testing when they take too many tests in the first place?  I conducted an informal survey from my colleagues across the school division and state in order to see different points of view.  Maybe there would be a positive outcome from this new direction from the VA Board of Education.

Great Point of View

Not So Great Point of View

Second chances are a great opportunity for students to do better. The accommodations for Special Education and ELL students are numerous, time consuming, and MUST be followed for each test and each child.
Many students have anxiety, so a retake may let them get a better score. The testing window will now be expanded, meaning most schools will be testing from early May to the last few days of school.
Better scores for me? Many parents feel the pressure of testing just as much as the students and may force their children to retake the SOL test.
Better scores for my school division? Between review, testing, remediating, and retesting, precious instructional time is lost.
Better scores for the state? Teaching to the test will overpower creative teaching.
Children improve their test taking & bubble in skills to the point of almost perfection. The pressure on students, teachers, and parents is already oppressing; this will make it worse.
I can’t come up with anything else that says this is a positive thing to do to our students. Hopefully, after initial testing, an item analysis will be provided in order to gauge where the student needs remediation, what resources will be available for remediation.

Readers, I would like for you to put yourself in the shoes of an 8th grader. Imagine that you are 13 years old and you struggle a little in school. Good grades do not come naturally to you and at the end of the school year you will take four (4) SOL tests: Math, Reading, Science, and Civics. Those four SOL tests are not the only tests taken this year. You took approximately 15 tests in Math, 12 tests in Language Arts, 10 tests in Science, and 12 tests in Civics. At the beginning of the year, you also took a pre-test to determine where you were in each subject. You will now take the SOL tests in May and June. However, because you are a struggling student, you may not pass one or more of your SOL tests, and you take them again…and again…and again!

What are we doing to our children?

A second chance for many children is a good idea, but I wonder if the second chance is more for the child or the parent? Many students may be forced to retake their SOL test because of their parents. Many students may feel the pressure to retake their SOL test from their teachers and school environment.

Most teachers have no problem with their students’ opportunity to retake an SOL test. I think most teachers, though, are very frustrated that this mandate was put into effect six weeks before SOL testing is supposed to begin, thus expanding the testing window, moving many SOL tests up by a week or two, which grossly impacts instructional time.

When will someone stop the insanity of over-testing children? I will continue to maintain that educators have no problem with accountability; however, over-testing is not accountability: IT IS DAMAGING CHILDREN ACROSS THE NATION!

When will we – students, parents, teachers, administrators, central office staff, and school board members – take a stand and save our children from too much testing? Will you be an advocate for your children? Your students?

This column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Bristow Beat, its editors, writers or sponsors. 

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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