Jane Weinkrantz’s Top Ten Reasons to Speak Out Against Testing Mania

 5/2013

 

1.      1. You like to think of your students as complex creatures whose intellectual growth cannot be accurately reflected by one standardized test administered to all students in a grade. Because you care about your students’ well-being, you fear that they will experience “exam stress” which is characterized by “disturbed sleep patterns, tiredness, worry, irregular eating habits, increased infections, and inability to concentrate,” not to mention the effects of long-term test anxiety which can include decreased memory and selective atrophy of the brain. (“Tests+Stress=Problems for Students” by Daniel Edelstein, brainconnectionpositscience.com) Additionally, you don’t want tests to label your special needs students as failures when they may be making significant progress towards their individualized goals. (“When Tests Tell Teachers Nothing: Special needs not met by standardized tests” by Aileen Brown, TC Daily Planet, 12/9/12 )  

        2. You like to think of yourself and your colleagues as complex creatures whose professional skills and expertise cannot be accurately measured by students’ grades on one standardized test, particularly if the test is not designed to measure teacher effectiveness in the first place, can only evaluate a very specific area of learning and does little to predict which teachers are most effective year after year.  (“Problems with the use of Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers” by Eva Baker, Paul E. Barton, Linda Darling-Hammond, Edward Haertel, Helen F. Ladd, Robert Linn, Diane Ravitch, Richard Rothstein, Richard Shavelson, and Lorrie A. Shepard EPI Briefing Paper #278, Economic Policy Institute, August 29, 2010)  

3.   3. You are opposed to any state education mandate that manifests itself by sending a teacher to the hospital room of Joey Furlong, a child with life-threatening epilepsy, in order to administer the fourth grade tests.  (“4th Grader Asked to Take New York State Test from Hospital Bed” msn.com 5/1/13 ).  

4.     4.You can’t believe that New York State Ed. actually anticipated anxious students vomiting on their tests and established a protocol for what to do when the stress of testing causes regurgitation of something other than facts.  You are even more amazed that the test still counts and should be submitted in a baggie. (“At Common Core Talk, A Principal Says his Reality Includes Vomit” Gothamschools.org, 4/19/13 )  

5.    5. You don’t think it’s right that 5th graders should take a 32 page test with 42 questions in 90 minutes that, when analyzed by educators at Columbia University, turns out to be written at a reading level appropriate for the middle of sixth grade, (“With Fifth-Grade Test Now Revealed, New York's Tougher New Reading Exams set Students up to Fail, Critics Warn.” New York Daily News, 5/3/13 ) or maybe you’ve just heard of “the pineapple question.” (“Talking Pineapple Question on State Exam Stumps…Everyone.” New York Daily News 4/19/12 )  

6.     6. You find it cynical that Pearson, the company whose tests are used to evaluate children and teachers across America , advertises for exam graders on Craigslist.  In Austin, Texas, the gig pays $12 an hour and a grader with any bachelor’s degree at all can determine whether or not students are forced into remedial classes, teachers are fired from their jobs and schools should be closed (“Holding Districts Accountable Through Craigslist?” TexasISD.com, 1/15/13 ). You further contemplate whether Pearson’s lackluster hiring practices might explain their significant errors in the scoring of New York City’s Gifted and Talented tests this spring; the mistakes resulted in the erroneous exclusion of 2700 qualified students from the city’s accelerated programs (“Testing Firm is Under Fire Due to Errors Scoring School Exams” The Wall Street Journal 5/10/13).

7.    7. You wonder if Pearson’s popularity and profitability can be attributed to The Pearson Foundation footing the bill for education officials to travel to conferences in London , Singapore , Rio de Janeiro and Helsinki and stay at chi-chi hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore .  (“When Free Trips Overlap with Commercial Purposes” The New York Times 9/18/11 )   Or perhaps their booming business in textbooks can be tied to using questions from Pearson textbooks on Pearson state assessments as they did this spring, giving students from districts upstate where the Pearson texts are taught a big advantage over students in New York City where non-Pearson texts are used, thus exerting pressure on school districts to buy more Pearson materials? (“Practice Material Found on Upstate Exams Boost Scores; Hurts City Kids Tallies, New York Daily News 4/19/13). Additionally, you find it creepy that Pearson actually includes product placement in their exams and curricular materials. (“New Standardized Tests Feature Plugs for Commercial Products” Washington Post   4/20/13 )

8.    8. You don’t want to spend weeks or even months on lessons that are simply test-prep and you are pretty sure your students would prefer to learn interesting and useful things instead. (“Time on Testing: 738 minutes in Three Weeks” The Washington Post, 11/11/12 )

9.    9.  You want no part of any practice that leads from the initial canonization of people like Rod Paige, Michelle Rhee or Beverly Hall--- who was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2009--- to cheating scandals such as those in Atlanta, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Houston and even our neighbor, Glen Cove. (“Allegations of Test Help by Teachers” The New York Times 4/11/13 )

       10. When a student tells you he or she wants to be a teacher all because of you, you want to feel proud, not guilty.

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