Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Ripple Effect by Robyn Brydalski and Kate Sacco

Here in New York, State Math Assessments will be administered to students this week. Once again, parents have a choice to make. To be clear, this choice is not about opting children out because we don’t want them to take a test. Nor is it about whether or not the child is capable of taking a test. Rather, it is about the purpose behind the test and the ripple effect that it has for students, teachers, schools and communities. It is about how that test should help a child improve their learning and how, as teachers, we can facilitate the educational experience for the child. 

Opting Out is a grassroots movement whose guiding principles are to create change for all students and to bring deeper understanding to parents about what is happening in schools today.  The movement started in response to the increasing emphasis on standardized testing and corporate reform that intensified under the Race To The Top initiative in 2010-2011.  In its early stages, about 5% of students in New York opted out of tests.  Today, the number remains steady at about 20% of students.

We, as teachers and as adults, naturally want what is best for our children. We need a purposeful and meaningful tool to assess children, drive instruction and grow learners. When teachers are forced to sign an affidavit stating they will not discuss the content of the test, shouldn’t we be questioning the reason why? Don't we want to know what the state and the test company are hiding?  When we cannot discuss the content of an assessment and can only analyze forensic data, how can that help improve learning? When assessments require 2 days of "unlimited" time, shouldn’t we wonder what insight we will gain from our youngest learners that we could not learn within our regular instructional time with students? 

While many parents believe that these tests are “no big deal”, they lose sight of the fact that these tests have a huge impact on students of all ages. Younger students lose days of intervention services as teachers, interventionists and classroom aides are pulled from regular assignments to proctor students taking tests for unlimited time. English language learners and special education students typically sit all day in front of tests that are far too hard for them or written either in a language they have not yet mastered or is several grade levels above their learning. Substitutes teachers are employed to cover classes so teachers can be trained in scoring and then spend days scoring the tests under extreme conditions of security.  Scores, which don’t impact the instruction of individual students, are used to punish schools, teachers and students, especially in high poverty or diverse communities. School ratings, based on these tests, are published and can impact home buying potential in communities where schools are located.  So, yes, they are a “big deal” to those who see and understand the bigger picture.  There is a ripple effect to these tests that cannot be dismissed.

Consider what W. James Popham writes in his article entitled "The Fatal Flaw of Educational Assessments" that "...tests built chiefly for comparisons are not suitable for purposes of instruction or evaluation of instructional quality in education. These tests provide teachers with few instructional insights and typically lead to inaccurate evaluations of a teacher's instructional quality.”

When you choose to #Refuse, you are not just choosing for your child.  You are choosing for the betterment of all students, teachers, and schools.
#refuse #optout 

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