Today, as thousands of students across NYC sit for the third day of the Common Core English Language Arts assessment, teachers are entering the time of the year when they get a chance to reflect and refine their practices. And many of them are saying loud and clear that we are over-testing our kids.
The teachers at P.S. 167 Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School – for example – published a bold commentary earlier this month detailing the increased number of tests students have been required to take, describing the measures they have taken to limit the number of tests for their kids, and encouraging parents to participate in the growing “opt out movement.”
The Brooklyn New School, a high-performing elementary school in Brooklyn, is one example where a large portion of the community has chosen to opt out of testing this year; many parents believe that the burden of six days of testing is not offset by the benefit of utilizing the test results to capture student progress. According to the New York Times, many of these parents actually called potential middle schools to ensure that opting out of the test would not limit their students’ chances of being accepted.
These parents are certainly not wrong that six days of testing can be grueling for elementary and middle school students; and to make matters worse, the tests have begun just one school day after returning from spring break – a combination that already sets students up to be tired and ill-prepared. Additionally, it is no lie that these six days of testing come on top of various other mandated tests as well as whatever testing days schools choose to include in their calendars as preparation throughout the year – in many cases amounting to more than 25 days of testing.
However, fueling this growing opposition to standardized testing now will not serve our students well in the long-term. By allowing them to opt-out of their 4th grade test, we are sending them a very clear message that testing (especially standardized) does not matter and isn’t important. And unfortunately that is just not true. Standardized testing will continue to be a part of our children’s lives long after they complete their grades 3-8 Common Core NY State tests. They will need to pass several rigorous Regents exams to graduate from high school, and perform well on the ACT or SAT to be accepted into college. Even after that, there will be more testing if they choose to pursue a graduate degree; and even more in some cases to utilize those degrees in practice.
So while standardized tests are time consuming, and may not always be an accurate snapshot of student growth and achievement, they are still the most commonly used metric of aptitude in our country at every academic level. So if what we really want is a more comprehensive way of measuring student success, boycotting the current measure certainly doesn’t achieve that. So perhaps we should put down the phones and protest signs and get to work creating it. And let’s leave the kids out of it for now – they need to stay focused on those tests!