The Summit for Smarter Schools, which drew 2,500 people upset by what they believe is over-testing of children, should be sending a strong signal to state education officials that something is wrong.
Many of those attending stated in the strongest way possible that students are being over-tested. Teachers are uncomfortable because of a new evaluation system that takes into account students’ test scores.
Parents, teachers and school administrators from across the region filled the seats at Kleinhans Music Hall, along with a roll call of local politicians, including State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo; Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo; and State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane.
Opposition to the testing appears to be growing. In April, 132 students in the Hamburg Central School District stayed home during state testing, many more than expected.
The need for testing is obvious: How can you improve schools if you don’t evaluate how they are doing?
The complaints focus on how much testing is enough, and the tests themselves. The state should examine both issues, and make any changes necessary. But when State Ed is satisfied it has the proper balance, it needs to do a much better job explaining the need for the tests, and the goals.
State Ed needs to show that the testing isn’t meant to be punitive, that it’s designed to improve education by ensuring students are learning and teachers are teaching. If that message doesn’t come across, then there’s something critically wrong.
The latest flap stems from new Common Core learning standards. Those standards were a necessary course correction in education meant to ensure that students are learning the things they need to know in a world that is smaller and more competitive than ever.
The tests used to measure proficiency in Common Core were much harder than previous statewide tests, and revealed an alarmingly low level of proficiency.
More familiarity with Common Core may help raise those scores, but it’s also possible that the tests need to be improved.
Teachers are still getting used to the new evaluation system, in which standardized test scores play a role. How students perform on those tests is one way to measure how effective a teacher is. There are other measures, but plainly student achievement has to be factored in.
Tearful stories by parents are part of the groundswell in opposition to high-stakes state testing. They tell how their children become anxious about the tests, and end up performing poorly.
Clearly, something needs to be done. If growing numbers of parents keep their children home during testing, the results will lose their meaning. State education officials need to hear the complaints of parents, teachers and administrators and move quickly to re-evaluate. Once that is accomplished, State Ed needs to articulate the reasons for and the goals of testing, and rebuild confidence in the system.