by Brian Washington
Maryland educators are publicly adding their voices to a growing national chorus, including students, parents, and community leaders, who all say the standardized testing movement has failed.
They’ve launched a series of television ads now appearing on Baltimore and Washington, D.C. stations as part of a month-long campaign entitled, “Less Testing, More Learning.”
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The ads highlight how Maryland children and their hopes of receiving a quality, well-rounded education are being crushed by the weight of all the standardized tests students are asked to take.
“I think the commercials and the outcry both came from a very organic place,” said Keith Anderson, a high school English teacher in Silver Spring, who is also featured in one of the ads. “People all over the place are sensing that it has gone too far.”
The Baltimore Sun published a report last year that said 8th graders in Anne Arundel and Harford counties take at least 40 hours of tests annually.
Some Frederick County students last year had nearly a third of their class time eaten up by standardized tests. And during this past school year, in Carroll County, students took tests on all but 9-days between the end of winter break and close of the school year.
Meanwhile, Maryland students just got a new test added onto their schedule last year—the PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
Anderson says the tests don’t help students do better in school or in life. He adds the state’s current testing regime also robs students of opportunities to learn about those things outside of what’s on the tests, including art, music, and finance.
“If the only thing that’s driving us is what’s going to be on the test, then of course it’s going to hurt education,” said Anderson. “Education is about what’s happening in the room in front of you at that moment. It’s about what’s going on in a kid’s brain. However, all this testing is making our kids’ brains shut down and it eliminates any ‘in-the-moment’ educational opportunities in front of you.”
He says testing proponents believe, incorrectly, that if educators are held accountable for a rigid list of things they should be teaching, then students are getting a good education. However, Anderson believes this goes against real learning and ultimately hurts students.
The Less Testing, More Learning campaign, which also includes radio and digital ads, is sponsored by the 71,000 active and retired educators who make up the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA).
The goal is to get students, parents, and educators to turn up the heat and get their state and local lawmakers to cut the number of standardize tests students must take.
“This (the state’s current testing situation) can change,” said Anderson. “We’re not talking about some drastic change that is going to upset the very foundation of education. We’re talking about some common-sense changes that those of us who care about our students want to see get done.”