POV: When it comes to testing, there are options

Whether it is a panel of seasoned news reporters on “Morning Joe” agreeing enough is enough, an article by Randi Weingarten in “American Teacher” saying it is time to end the fixation, boycotts in New York City, high school students in Chicago protesting the negative impact on their teachers’ careers, or a local parent group seeking legal counsel on their children’s rights, the message is clear – high stakes standardized testing in our public schools has gotten completely out of hand. It defies common sense.

As parents and educators, we know instinctively that this testing is not authentic, and we know that it tells us little or nothing about the academic growth of our children. So on a scale of one-to-10, we should rate the effectiveness of this type of testing a zero, Right? Wrong! It is less than zero because of its severe negative impact on the quality of education in our public schools.

Testing is doing harm. It damages the ability of teachers to really teach, to enrich instruction, to inspire a diverse population of children and to create a learning experience that keeps those children eagerly coming back each day. Teaching is an art form that thrives in a dynamic environment.

Compare the following two real-life situations involving 4-year-old girls, and decide for yourself what makes sense. Kayla attends a private preschool in New England. This year, she has practiced her reading, writing and math skills through lessons about the Inuit people, a basic understanding of astronomy, a study of Impressionist artists, field trips to places in her community, literature studies of various authors, care of a class pet, instruction in the rhythms of an African drum and a whole lot more. Her parents have been treated to art exhibits, class performances, participation in class projects, and invitations to the classroom for a child guided tour. Somewhere in another preschool program in the Chicago School District, another 4-year-old Kayla has been subjected to what is called the Kindergarten Readiness Tool – 14 different standardized tests. And that is pretty much it; you didn’t think there was time for anything else, did you?

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