CVPE Member wrote an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle and stated that "standardized tests were originally intended as diagnostic tools to identify areas where students need remediation, not as punitive weapons. Now school closures, hiring and firing decisions and graduation are directly linked to test scores. As a result, more and more time is spent preparing for and administering tests - time that otherwise would be spent teaching curriculum."
Editorial by CVPE member Amy Grimes in the Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/All-that-testing-is-perverting-public-education-3464869.php?
Standardized Testing in Houston's public schools is:
(a) draining away much-needed resources;
(b) driving curriculum;
(c) occupying about one-third of your child's time in class; or
(d) all of the above.
Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott recently said the state's testing system is "a perversion of its original intent." People not directly involved in public education might have a hard time imagining just how perverse the situation has become.
While there's universal agreement that accountability is a good thing, the negative consequences of Texas' testing plan far outweigh any documented benefits for students.
Standardized tests were originally intended as diagnostic tools to identify areas where students need remediation, not as punitive weapons. Now school closures, hiring and firing decisions and graduation are directly linked to test scores. As a result, more and more time is spent preparing for and administering tests - time that otherwise would be spent teaching curriculum. Some Houston Independent School District teachers estimate that they must spend at least one-third of their class time on tests.
If one-third of school time involves this kind of work, it's no wonder so many students are disengaged. Even when not specifically doing test prep, teachers are advised to limit instruction to what will be tested. In some schools, students are pulled from core classes like English and science daily for hours of intensive test prep. Rather than learning to think critically and write coherently, students learn how to select programmed responses.
Ninth-graders recently wrote six-word summaries of a four-hour benchmark, or practice test for the upcoming STAAR and TAKS. Here are some examples:
"Long-lasting hours of stressful boredom."
"Extremely boring and definitely not helpful."
"It's not helping me in life."
Classrooms are plastered with charts showing bars of red (failures), yellow (passing scores) and green (commended). Some students have tried to pass exit-level exams for years after completing all other requirements for graduation. They still do not have diplomas. Adjustments for English language learners and students with learning disabilities are minimal. At some schools, low-scoring students are pushed out and forced to look for any school that will take them. Since teachers' and administrators' jobs and bonuses are at stake, some will do whatever it takes to make sure these students aren't on their rosters. Where do these students go? Students who need the most help are least likely to get it, and schools willing to teach these students are punished for their efforts. This is the antithesis of what public education should be.
Another facet of the problem is money spent on creating, printing, distributing, scoring and analyzing tests and test-prep materials. With Texas' public schools facing a budget cut of more than $4 billion this year, this diversion of resources is unconscionable. Test publishers are reaping huge profits from education reform initiatives - half a billion dollars in Pearson's current five-year contract with the state. Meanwhile, fewer and fewer schools have librarians, school nurses and other so-called "frills" and class sizes grow ever larger.
In the wake of the new STAAR tests, opposition to overtesting is spreading like wildfire throughout Texas. Since March, more than 213 school districts - 16 percent of Texas districts - have signed a resolution declaring "standardized, high-stakes testing is strangling our public schools and undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into an educational opportunity that prepares our students to be competitive on a global stage."
One local group of teachers, parents, students and community members working to stop the testing juggernaut is Community Voices for Public Education. We believe high-stakes standardized testing shouldn't be the basis for determining students' grades or GPAs, closing schools, firing teachers or retaining students. Our children won't be better educated just because we test them more; in fact, more than a decade of hypertesting has had the opposite effect.
Grimes is a member of Community Voices for Public Education (www.houstoncvpe.org).
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