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Educators and parents share their stories on the over-use of standardized tests

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In heavily tested grades, more than a month of instructional time is lost thanks to high-stakes test preparation and administration. Over-testing has forced educators to narrow the curriculum and “teach to the test” in an effort to preserve funding for their schools. But what are the other consequences of this broken accountability system? Check out stories from educators and parents below on the impact they have felt in their own classrooms and communities.

Want to share your own story? Click here to let us know how the overuse of standardized tests are hurting your students, children, and public schools.

Douglas J., Evergreen, CO

Students are not standardized.

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Share your story: Tell us how the overuse of standardized testing has hurt your students and schools. Click here ›

In my teaching career I have grown to know hundreds of students who could not be adequately evaluated by standardized tests.  The description really says it all — the tests are standardized. Let me assure you — the students are not standardized. Only a small percentage really reacts at their best in the testing situation. Many others whose learning is comparable can demonstrate it much better by writing, speaking, creating, and solving real-world problems. Our assessments should provide for wide variety of ways in which student learning can be measured and recorded.  This misguided effort to evaluate learning solely by standardized tests and punish teachers and schools based on the results must stop!

Lynn R., Chadds Ford, PA

For some [special education] students, the current pressure to achieve unrealistic expectations on state tests is discouraging, frustrating, and humiliating.  There is no opportunity for them to take another test which would also show progress unless they are so severely disabled that they are put into another testing track.

MA Educator Jean Faye working with a studentI am a special education teacher for students with multiple types of disabilities. In the last few years my district has gone to a full inclusion model. This has provided many opportunities for my students and has allowed most of them to achieve academically beyond what was once thought possible. They have opportunities to make friends and to be a part of everything. For these children, inclusion is great. For some students, though, the current pressure to achieve unrealistic expectations on state tests is discouraging, frustrating, and humiliating. There is no opportunity for them to take another test which would also show progress unless they are so severely disabled that they are put into another testing track. In our state, alternate assessment means not being able to earn a high school diploma. Some of my students need this alternative program but most do not. As the standards ramp up and the “race to the top” is on, some of my students who start the race do not have a chance to finish it successfully – and success means finishing – not winning it.

Many students are in need of something that does not exist -an alternate testing program that will allow them to earn their diploma but will allow them to take tests that show their hard work and progress which is coming at a slower rate.

The progress is there. This child may be academically less than 1-2 years behind nondisabled peers. Retention is not an appropriate option. With extra help and time, they may be able to eventually earn that diploma and meet the criteria. Why should these children be frustrated and humiliated in elementary school when they are unable to achieve all the standards as quickly as others? Are there not better ways to show their progress?

Kari C., Leadville, CO

The expectation that these students learn English and take and pass our state test alongside their native English-speaking counterparts in two years is ridiculous, especially with the minimal support we provide these students.

I live in a small community where the demographic changes over the last ten years have changed the face of our population and posed a challenge for which we were unprepared. We now have a very high percentage of ESL learners and we are clearly not meeting their needs. The expectation that these students learn English and take and pass our state test alongside their native English-speaking counterparts in two years is ridiculous, especially with the minimal support we provide these students.

Jane K., Riverbank, CA

She took one look at it and said, “I can’t do this.” And didn’t.

One Voice United Rally photo courtesy of NYSUT.When my daughter was in 3rd grade, she loved school and loved to read. They had beautiful textbooks at her school in CT, with large print and beautiful illustrations. It was a huge shock to her the day they had her first standardized test. The text was small, in a big chunk and there were no pictures at all! She took one look at it and said, “I can’t do this.” And didn’t. Her school had us talk to her counselor who recommended she see a counselor who specialized in “test anxiety.” So we did, and that went ok. She took the tests, did her anti-anxiety strategies, and never again loved school or reading quite as fully as she had. She still dreads taking tests and doesn’t do well on them.

We need to do better for our children. We need to train teachers well and thoroughly (subject areas and pedagogy), pay them well and treat them with respect, and let them teach! Filling in dots is not a skill my daughter needs to learn. She has learned how to investigate, gather data, read and interpret it, and come to and write about her own conclusions. She has an amazing creative genius that lies entirely outside the realm of standardized tests!

June S., Strasburg, PA

Students have lost the will to learn for the sake of knowing and expanding their own minds.

I see and hear too many students who ask, “Is this on the test? Why do we need to learn it then?” Students have lost the will to learn for the sake of knowing and expanding their own minds. They often have difficulty thinking beyond what the tests require.

20 days of testing is not the answer to good public education; learning to think critically and read and understand critically is. Please stop the mania of testing and focus on cutting through the bias of the media by having students apply knowledge–not just regurgitate it.

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Reader Comments

  1. Michelle Roman

    As a parent, I am thankful that my children have missed this latest episode in testing due to Race to the Top. I had once thought nothing could be worse than No Child Left Behind, as that was hurting my children while they were in the educational system. Now I almost wish to have No Child Left Behind return. I am highly disappointed with Obama and his false promises that he made to us during campaigns. When Bush was in office our tests were designed and made by McGraw-Hill out of Texas. Before the official change over to Obama our testing was moved to Pearson out of Illinois. I don’t believe this is a coincidence. My children struggled in mainstream education, but were very bright. They didn’t perform well on tests, but if you went by IQs, one has a 128 and one has a 115. One would think they would thrive in testing situations. They did not enjoy any part of the educational process and felt restricted in the learning process and not encouraged to explore and learn about the world around them. In fact they have stated that they were discouraged to think outside of the box and just do what needed to be done to get by. What is happening now is a disservice to all children. If my sons struggled, what about the thousands of students who struggle with IQS of 70s, 80s, and 90s? When will their needs be met? When will the madness end? Michelle Roman, New York

    Reply
  2. Elizabeth Gladulich

    I am a mother and worked in a school district, I have seen both sides of the story. students’ and teachers’. Here’s the difference between three children: Oldest,went on field trips,had more opportunity to do research for essays and had more special programs in art, music, science, and gym available.Middle child (6 years difference between oldest & middle), still had most of the same opportunities, but in lesser degree. Youngest child (9 years difference from oldest child,and 3 years difference from middle child) No field trips, no in depth research for essays,except internet, no art, music program after school activity(no longer part of curriculum)still had science and gym was a contract and done on own. The first one did well on tests, the second one did fair but had test anxiety. The third one did not do well on tests at all. Teaching was the difference between the oldest and the youngest, instead of focusing on testing as was done with the younger. I know this to be true I was in the building that my children went through high school in, and I was a volunteer in the computer room and a reader in the lower grades. I saw the stress of testing more in my younger child’s school life than my older child’s school life all in a span of less than ten years. Critical thinking, fields trips, creativity, and the arts must be bought back to the basics in our children’s lives; they are the ones who will be our future in government, legislation, and education. Teachers must be given the right to teach again.

    Reply
  3. Fran Lockhart

    I have maintained all along that public education was not broken. Attempts to “fix” it have managed to break it almost beyond repair. I began teaching before Reagan started the jihad against the public schools. I have survived Lamar Alexander’s “improvement ” of our schools, NCLB, and I am trying to hang in there with TVAAS and Race To The Top. My students at the beginning of my career were able to THINK. Their children and grandchildren, not so much. TVAAS is an abomination that has not been adequately explained to anyone. Remember there are lies, damn lies and statistics!

    Reply
  4. Yvonne Hogan

    Perhaps we need to pre-test our legislators once they are elected. We could Post- test after each year and if they have not been successful by our standards, they are put on probation and their state is listed as “at-risk”. If they don’t improve the next test, their state loses ALL federal funds. Ridiculous, yes. But this OUR reality.

    Our high school students gave figured out to fill in bubbles randomly on the pre-test so they will improve on the post-test. The tests are becoming a waste of my energy to create, to review, to prep and to test. I could be teaching during this time!

    Reply
    • Ll

      We should also do a post test and analyze their growth data! They definitely need legislator growth objectives!

      Reply
  5. Theresa Commons

    There ought to be standardized test for all who aspire to run for the legislature and all legislators ought to be tested while they are serving in order to provide “accountablility”

    Reply
  6. Janet Ramella

    I was a high school teacher for 33 years and I am not sure that I could pass these tests. They have so much on them that most students will never use and because they are so important for funding teachers are teaching to the tests no matter how much they deny it. THey may not be teaching the actual test but they are certainly teaching a similarity. I am concerned at what students do not know, not so much elated with what they do know.

    Reply
  7. Linda Strauss

    The decisions being made about education are ridiculous and totally antithetical to accepted knowledge about educating children. These decisions are politically generated by politicians who do not send their own children to public schools, and who know nothing about education. The public, who really want what is best for their children, have been inundated with misinformation that teachers are stupid and lazy and deserve no respect or say in how they teach.

    Reply
  8. Chester Payne

    From personal experience, every day you spend on testing demands another three to five days of test prep, at a minimum. It doesn’t take many of those to eat up, not just the school year, but the calendar year as well, which is more time than most teachers have to spend with a class.

    Reply
  9. Althea Waites-Hayes

    The concerns which have been expressed by teachers and parents about the overuse of tests definitely resonated with me. I teach at a large state university in Southern California and I have witnessed the end result of testing abuse. The students in my classes are seriously deficient in terms of critical thinking and creativity because they went to schools where they were forced to memorize material for a standardized test. Parents and teachers in those schools were told that funding would be cut or denied if these tests were not carried out.
    This MUST STOP. Student success should not be measured by test scores. This abusive system puts extreme pressure on teachers and can also lead to termination of employment if an administrator feels that they are not following test requirements.
    I would encourage everyone to read Diane Ravitch’s books and essays on the crisis in American public education because she is one of the leading experts and critics on the overuse of testing.
    We have to keep fighting for change and we must support teachers and parents who continue to rage against the testing machine because it has seriously undermined public education and will have a lasting effect on the next generation of students .

    Reply

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