Testing Craze: N&R agrees

The image “http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:RpWwRLUqasIoOM:http://www.lexile.com/uploads/Partner%2520logos/NC-DOE%2520copy.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. In an editorial earlier this week, the News & Record essentially agrees with my campaign…our kids are tested way too much. And it is taking the creativity out of our classrooms:

Test craze flunks out

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007 

A panel of state education experts has reached the same conclusion as many parents: Students take too many tests in school.

As Sam Houston, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing and Accountability, observed, ” We’re testing more, but we’re not seeing results. Somewhere along the way testing isn’t aligning with excellence.”

Correlations between testing and learning can be tenuous. Tests are a dependable measuring tool but do little to foster a creative learning environment that keeps young people in school.

The push for more testing is closely tied to the state’s 15-year-old ABCs of Public Education initiative. Benchmarks are critical in assessing progress toward certain learning goals. However, in and of themselves, test results may not be clear indicators of what students are, or ought to be, learning in the classroom.

In light of that concern, the General Assembly established the blue-ribbon panel composed of educators, legislators, business leaders and testing experts.

A series of meetings statewide over the summer culminated in recommendations to be passed on to the State Board of Education. Specifically, the commission wants to eliminate fourth-, seventh- and 10th-grade writing tests and eighth-grade computer skills tests.

The number of end-of-course high school tests designed to measure how they’re doing in the state testing program would be cut in half. And the door was left ajar for even more cutbacks.

Of course, tinkering with the testing formula has ramifications because teacher bonuses can be linked with results. And those financial incentives play a significant role in attracting qualified teachers to the state, including many recruited to work at under-achieving schools. If testing is de-emphasized, different eligibility guidelines may become necessary.

Ideally, students should find learning both challenging and rewarding. But narrowly focusing on test preparation for weeks at a time can lead to little more than memorization and programmed responses.

For some subjects, parroting facts doesn’t work well at all. Testing critics cite writing tests as a prime example. Panel members agreed.

Passing tests remains important and necessary. Beyond their value to students, test results often are linked to funding and accreditation. But testing as an end unto itself can squeeze the joy out of learning.

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E.C. 🙂

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3 Responses

  1. EC I am not sure when all the testing became the norm. I am sure it was sometime in my adulthood and not my school days. But when we had as much as 50% of a graduating class unable to read their diplomas then it was really time to step in and demand that at least something be taught. This lead to “No Child Left Behind” and the demand for all the testing and the consequent “teaching to the test” that so many criticize. So what is wrong with “teaching to the test” as opposed to teaching nothing?

    It stifles creativity in the classroom? Bull! The above average and gifted kids will get their regardless of what goes on in the classroom. It is the average and below average kids who have to be force fed information that they will have need of to be productive citizens that we have to worry about.

    So to disagree with you on this point as I am usually one of your biggest supporters but in this I really think you need to rethink. If you can come up with a way to force teachers to teach and children to learn the basics without making them prove they have mastered them then I will be the first to agree that testing needs to be curbed but until then we need to keep the fire to the toes of all; teachers, students, and especially administrations who want the numbers.

  2. I tend to agree with Brenda on this matter. If we discontinue testing of students in public schools, what will we do to ensure learning? While few like NCLB, we were at a point 7-8 yeas ago when students were “graduating” from school, but they were illiterate. We spend a significant portion of this country’s GNP on public education, so shouldn’t we get some proof from the educators that the money is actually accomplishing something? Many cast stones at NCLB because the schools “teach to the test”. So, who decided to do that? The Administrators who ask for more and more of our money every year. “If we only had more money, we could actually educate!”

    I have no problem canning NCLB, and for that matter disbanding the Federal DOE, as our constitution gives no authority to the feds to regulate or fund public education. HOWEVER, if we do that, then the feds should stop doling-out grants to schools. The feds should get out of the business of public education altogether. Let the states and local authorities fund and regulate it. If you do that, I suspect that the public will hold educators more accountable since they will feel the pinch out of their pocketbooks more easily. Ted Kennedy is fast to criticize NCLB, but he is even faster to slip a few more billions of dollars out of the federal budget for them. Hey, wasn’t he the sponsor of NCLB? Yeah, I know, George bush lied to him about the fact that there would be testing and people actually held accountable. How insane is that?

  3. It is probably why I’m not running for Congress or for Governor! I’m all for accountability, but ensuring that accountability is done in a fair manner. And until there is some real reform at DPI, I’m unsure that can take place.

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