Every year English and Math teachers have weeks of lesson planning, student preparation and education destroyed by the school, the district, the state and the national obsession with testing. These are some of the big turds that are clogging up the isles of of every Public School classroom, so that little educational progress can be made. And then these failing schools and teachers are judged for the fact that they are failing because of all the testing – go figure. Something needs to be said by teachers and students who are victimized by what turns out to be hidden agendas of big money donors who have big money interests in destabilizing public schools, defunding them, and shifting control of education to private and charter schools which have little or no testing and little or no regulation. But they do have plenty of money making potential for the rich educational entrepreneurs.
So every year teachers like me have to go through this testing shit that Diane Ravitch in her dianeravitch.net blog “Why Students Should Opt Out of State Testing” exhorts us to know:
The single most important thing you need to know about the state tests is that they are utterly useless and without any value. The results come back in the summer or fall, when the student has a different teacher. Neither students nor teachers are allowed to discuss the questions on the test, so no one learns anything from them. (https://dianeravitch.net/2017/04/24/why-students-should-opt-out-of-state-testing/)
Diane is a past Secretary of Education under George Bush II and believe me she knows of what she speaks. Not only that, I know of what I speak, because for years I’ve had to go through the pain of having entire units destroyed with one test after another until hardly anything is worth salvaging out of the school year. I have no patience for the morons who will say that this is the teacher’s fault or the administration’s fault for not planning well enough, or not controlling the classes, not being flexible, or whatever. They and their bosses are controlled by the Gates, the Waltons, the DeVoses, the Duncans and the Broads of education who would do anything to discredit someone or something standing in the way of their destructive plans for Public Education and their billions in profits.
This testing phantasmagoria is especially destructive to the self esteems and moral of English Language Learners (ELL) and Special Education students who are constantly reminded of how inadequate and incompetent they are. Not only that this inappropriate testing is a violation of IDEA’s FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) requirement for Special Education. (Please see my April 23, 2017 blog on teacherkickback.wordpress.com). So, ELL and Special Education students join their Regular Education classmates in sliding down the slippery slope of failure and hopelessness.
So let’s get down to specifics. Let’s name the anti-public education turds one by one. There are four major tests during the last semester which assure that any culminating efforts that you make in your curriculum are in total disarray. The following are paraphrases from respective websites with my annotations:
First, there is the Smarter Balance test which is a creation of The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) which is a consortium featuring eight states, the District of Columbia, and the Bureau of Indian Education, that work to create and deploy a standard set of K–12 assessments in Mathematics and English based on the Common Core State Standards.
Here we have the mother of all standardized tests which guarantees that the teacher, the administration, the school, the district, the state and the nation will be judged and found inadequate and put on a watch list. Meetings will take place in which goals will be set that are a meaningless recognition of teacher ability to set arbitrary goals to a higher percentage than last year. The evaluating teachers, of course, are different teachers than the teachers who taught the students in the first place. What a moral busting, consciousness depressing total waste of time.
Second, there is the Comprehensive Assessment Program which provides multiple assessment opportunities that constitute a vital component of an effective, well-balanced instructional program and support teachers’ ability to plan effectively, monitor student progress in standards-based instruction, and determine the efficacy of instruction and intervention matched to student need. A Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) framework is grounded in the use of assessments to monitor student progress in standards-based instruction.
These intentions are wonderful, altruistic dreams, but when this assessment is already in the context of over testing, these intentions become back handed aspirations that only emphasize to the teacher that there is not time enough to teach any cohesive curriculum let alone one that is adjusted on data based results.
Third, there is LAS Links. LAS Links is an integrated suite of English language proficiency assessments and instructional tools designed to strengthen your English language learning (ELL) program. Use LAS Links to accurately and quickly place students into the appropriate bilingual and ELL programs, where they can make progress and better enjoy the learning process. LAS Links also helps you monitor progress, develop optimal instruction plans, and determine when students are ready to exit the program and meet Title lll reporting requirements. Move ELL students ahead quickly in the classroom—and in the world—with LAS Links.
Again, these intentions are wonderful, altruistic dreams, but when this assessment is already in the context of over testing, these intentions become back handed aspirations that only emphasize to the teacher that there is not time enough to teach any cohesive curriculum let alone one that is adjusted on data based results. And this chorus echoes on and on ad nauseam. You the reader will get as tired as we are of coming to this forgone repetitive conclusion.
Fourth, there is the CELDT. The California English Language Development Test is given as an initial assessment to newly enrolled students whose primary language is not English and as an annual assessment to English learners enrolled in transitional kindergarten through grade twelve in California public schools.
The CELDT has three purposes:
1 To identify students who are limited English proficient
2 To determine the level of English language proficiency of students who are limited English proficient
3 To assess the progress of limited English proficient students in acquiring the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English.
My apologies to those of you who are bored. But I felt it absolutely necessary to drag you through this crap, but rest assured this is not even a tenth as boring, demoralizing and counterproductive as actually having to live through it with your students. So, please bear with me.
The rest of the turds are spread indiscriminately throughout the school year, so as to have an unpredictable impact on the teacher’s lesson planning:
Fifth, there is the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) Interactive which is a computer adaptive assessment designed to measure how well students read literature and expository texts of varying difficulties. This psychometrically valid assessment instrument can be used as a diagnostic tool to place students at the best level in the program so they can read with success.
Again, wonderful intensions, BUT this quickly becomes turdified when in the context of all the other turds. My God, can’t we consolidate all these into one comprehensive psychometric, diagnostic, identifying, determining, strengthening, monitoring, and standard based assessment? What a glorious day that would be, when testing would be boiled down into one two day test which would be over 2% of the year’s instructional time. The school year being 180 days.
Ok, I know there are a lot of complicated problems this would cause like copyright infringement suits, contracts broken, and worst of all the kickbacks would end from all those corporations that make the testing. Your talking about hundreds of millions of dollars spent on testing and test preparation. There’s a lot of kickback potential there. And the state legislatures would have to do something about the liability laws that hogtie the districts so they can’t create their own tests for fear of copyright infringement. State legislatures need to address liability laws anyway concerning their schools, but that will be covered in another blog.
Sixth, there is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Paper-and-pencil assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, U.S. history, and in Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL). Beginning in 2017, NAEP will begin administering digitally based assessments (D BA) for mathematics, reading, and writing, with additional subjects added in 2018 and 2019.
It’s good we caught this one early. At least we can write our federal legislators and tell them we’ve had it with this testing crap. And we can tell them that it may be worth something to them, but it is absolutely worthless to the students or to the schools which they attend. Tell them that legislation needs to be passed in which testing is limited to 2% of instructional time, that they have to find another source of campaign funding and finally that they have to tell one more contractor to get the fuck off their back.
Last there is the Parent Teacher Student Association Survey (PTSA) which takes one day. Don’t ask me how a PTA survey took one day but it did at our school. The materials have to be passed out to all the classes. All three grades have to be surveyed. Materials have to be collected. Logistics!
Now in the overall scheme of obsessive testing which totals somewhere in the neighborhood of over two months to administer, one day is just a drop in the bucket. But, when seen in the context of our goal which is 2% of instructional time this is half of the maximum allotted time. So let’s just tell the PTSA that there’s too much shit in the crapper and that they need to send their survey home during homeroom and take the chance that someone might want to fill it out.
Yes, you heard right. I figured it out by adding up the days. It took us over two months of instructional time to administer all these tests. That seems to be the national trend according to Diane Ravitch who estimates that testing takes up 20% of instructional time. This has to stop.
But how are we going to stop it? We certainly aren’t going to buck the big money interests that have the school districts bending over backwards or forward whichever the case may be. What we can do is very simple and it is the action that Diane Ravitch proposes in her dianeravitch.net article that I mentioned at the first of this blog: “Why Students Should Opt Out of State Testing”. Parents should simply write a letter to their school principal stating that they do not want their child to be tested with district, state, or national testing.
Barclay Totten Copyright 2017