Testing Disruptions and “Course Correction”

A reading coach in Orange County, Florida has been keeping track of how often students are pulled out of English class for district- and state-wide-testing. Students are pulled out of class six times a year for Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test They are pulled out for language proficiency, military aptitude, and benchmark tests as well as the PSAT. All told, the Orlando Sentinel reported last week, a typical 10th grade English class is disrupted 65 of its 180 days. This number includes disruptions for testing that pull students away from learning, not instruction-related tests offered by classroom teachers.

In addition, schools report that the testing is frequently mismatched with what IS being studied in the classroom. Moreover, testing logistics can interfere with other aspects of education. One middle school interviewed for the article loses access to its library for three of the school’s ten months so that the computers can be used for testing. The school’s testing coordinator reports that test volume has doubled during her 15 years on the job.

Furthermore, computerized testing does not always run smoothly. Problems with the individual computers can mean students sitting around or being returned to classrooms where no lesson plan is in place.

Some officials defend the extensive testing as essential data-gathering, but many teachers and parents note that emphasis on testing has taken joy and spontaneity out of learning. And for some observers testing disruptions on 65 out of 180 school days is simply a “huge detriment to instruction.”

Course Correction on CCSS/Testing

In other test-related news, the National Education Association issued a statement yesterday calling for a “course correction” in implementing Common Core State Standards and related testing.

Seven out of ten teachers, nationwide, report that Common Core implementation is not going well in their schools, says Dennis Van Roekel, president of the NEA, which represents over 3 million public school employees. Worse, he adds: Two-thirds of teachers report never being asked about implementing Common Core.

“Old tests are being given, but new and different standards are being taught,” Van Roekel declared on February 19th:

How on earth does that give any teacher, student, or parent information that is relevant to what they need to know or how they can improve? Why would we waste valuable learning time for students? And, then, to make matters worse, many states are proceeding to use these invalid test results as the basis for accountability decisions.

This is not ‘accountability’—it’s malpractice.

Just last summer, however, Van Roekel was dismissing Common Core critics, saying: “If you don’t want it, what do you want instead? And what is in the standards that you don’t want a child to know? One of the things that makes those standards so amazing is that 45 states agreed on the same thing.”

His statement this week references “listening closely” to state leaders and inviting “hundreds of thousands of NEA members to share their views about how CCSS implementation is going.” As a result of this listening, he calls – without apology to critics he earlier dismissed – for a course correction beginning with a demand that “policymakers to treat teachers as professionals and listen to what we know is needed.”

He continues:

Give us the resources and time—time to learn the standards, collaborate with each other, develop curriculum that is aligned to the standards, and time to field-test the standards in classrooms to determine what works and what needs adjustment. We also need the financial resources for updated textbooks and fully aligned teaching and learning materials.

Second, work with educators—not around us—to determine how to properly use assessments in classrooms across America. It’s beyond me how anyone would ask teachers to administer tests that have no relation whatsoever to what they have been asked to teach. In too many states, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Among specifics, the new position calls for a moratorium on using assessments which are in field-testing to evaluate teacher performance. Here’s the NEA’s full statement.


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