Flawed school testing needs reconsidered

Published 1:51 pm Thursday, March 17, 2016

I simply must speak up in protest of the enormous bright red report card that was the front page of the The Tribune on Sunday, March 13.

Being an Ironton resident and a long-retired educator who spent most of my career in other counties, I have no personal stake in teacher performance in Lawrence County and Ironton City Schools, except that I still keep my hand in in both city and county schools by part-time tutoring, substituting, supervising student-teachers and volunteering my help during spring testing. Therefore, I am familiar with yearly testing as it is presently taking place.

Having taught 30 years in elementary schools, and having supervised student teachers through Ohio University, I am really saddened at the number of teachers who are retiring early because of the mishandling of these tests to pass judgment on and publicize as valid teacher/student performance. I have given the entire test to several different grade levels in recent years and find, in my opinion, that it is unsuitable for most students developmentally. The instructions are more confusing than the questions, and it is entirely too long to hold a student’s interest for doing his/her best: the test takes days and days.

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If this were only my own opinion, I might not be compelled to speak up about test-based grades being put on the front page with little or no explanation. But the head of the company who CREATES and SELLS the tests said in a recent news conference that the test should probably be field-tested at least 5 years before schools begin taking the results seriously.

Constant corrections and changes are being made each year, with no continued and organized field testing that I am aware of, except for the test company selling it at a cost of millions to schools whose devoted staff members are prematurely and unfairly taking the consequences for the outcome. How can a large percentage of a teacher’s professional evaluation be based on such a flawed and constantly moving target?

In The Tribune’s defense, I believe the article DID point out that aggregate online test results were significantly lower than those of the very same test given with pencil and paper. Schools were given a choice which test they wanted to use without being given this information. This fact alone seems to do away with any reliability the test might have in its present form.

I see wonderful, experienced teachers taking early retirement because of the emphasis put on this fledgling and flawed test. I see students made to feel dumb taking tests that are not appropriate for their grade level. I see administrators having to constantly ride their staff to raise test performance, often at the cost of good staff relationships.

School employees, from first-year teachers to experienced superintendents, find it hard to discuss their dissatisfaction with the test without seeming defensive.

I have absolutely nothing against a reasonable, standardized test for any student once its validity has been tried and proven. I am very much in favor of teacher accountability. But I strongly object to articles like The Tribune’s, which pass judgment on hardworking school staffs with no explanation of the present dissatisfaction with the test by the majority of those who are involved with its implementation.

Judith Sanders