In my in-box today from Ohio's Interim Superintendant Dr. Rivera...
"I know you appreciate the crucial importance of maintaining student progress in an effective education system — for students, their parents, teachers, school administrators and the taxpayers who support your district. Testing shows evidence of student progress. It provides much needed information to classroom teachers and others, so they can monitor and improve our efforts in service of students. Results of these assessments provide the whole community perspective on what their students are able to retain and apply long term, allowing for reflection and improvement. Especially at a time when we must prepare our students for the high-skill demands of today’s workforce, we need testing — and test results — to tell us how to best help our students succeed."
As a teacher in an urban high school, I do appreciate the importance of maintaining student progress. Students in my school often have a multitude of obstacles to overcome prior to being able to make adequate academic progress. Sometimes students have health concerns, family problems, emotional issues, developmental concerns, problems related to poverty, parental unemployment, homelessness, and poor diet, among many others. I'm sure you understand.
Unfortunately, that progress has recently been stymied by a month of testing.
Here's the thing, though, with all due respect to Dr. Rivera, who I'm sure means well, testing has never helped any of my students overcome the obstacles that prevent their progress. Furthermore, these assessments provide very little in the way of evidence with any real value. They've never really provided me with "much needed information." The way I understand it, school districts will get overall results from these assessments in June, parent reports in July. I hope to get the data related to my students this summer, but I've gotten no guarantees. Even if I do, my sophomores are gone June 1st, and my school is so big, I may never see them again.
As a teacher, the "reflection and improvement" that I make use of most effectively is done moment to moment in the classroom based on student responses, or lesson to lesson, day to day, unit to unit. I use formative assessments almost daily and summative assessment every few weeks. When I analyze those moments, or grade those tests, the results are in my hand, right then. At that point I make informed decisions about instruction. If I am unsure of something, then I discuss matters with the many effective professional educators who I am proud to call my colleagues.
All Dr. Rivera's test results do, is to provide us with information on how we can best help students succeed on tests. And while test scores may improve...I know much has been made lately of our "success" on the third grade reading guarantee...what we have improved is test performance. If success on assessments is our goal, then yes Dr. Rivera, "we need testing." However, if we are truly interested in student progress, and legitimate preparation for the high-skill demands of today's workforce, then we should probably reconsider our priorities.
It is widely understood that these assessments primarily reflect economic status. We don't need standardized tests to tell us who is economically vulnerable. We need remediation of their conditions, solutions to the obstacles that prevent student progress in an effective education system.