It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you have a bad two or three days, you’re actually dumb.
That seems to be the new norm for education now that New York state is pushing for teachers and administrators to be judged, in part, by how well students perform on the state tests that will be taking place in April and May.
It seems weird to me that an entire school year will come down to a few days of testing, not just for the students but for the educators.
The idea of a student’s progress being linked to one test and not an entire year’s performance seemed off to me from the get-go. I also never liked the fact that if a child did not fare well on one test, they were put into what most schools call the A.I.S. program. While well intentioned, that could lead to another separation of students and to ridicule from peers.
Our family is now in its fourth year of dealing with these tests, and second with multiple students. So far, we have been fortunate to have students who perform well in school and on tests.
Take my wife, for example. She is very smart and knows her stuff, but the second you put a piece of paper in front of her that says the word “test,” she freezes. The answer to a basic math question she gave you 10 minutes ago now might as well be advanced molecular physics to her now.
So, should a student like that, who has spent all year showing that they know what is being taught, then be judged by one set of tests that cause them to freeze up and score a 1 or 2, instead of the 3 or 4 that they are more than capable of getting?
What if, especially when we get into the later grades, a student is going through a difficult or rough stretch and just is not mentally prepared to take the test? Should that be held against that student?
This year, there is another issue to deal with. A lot of schools will have their Spring Break a week before the tests, so children will come back to school and have almost no time to get back into the groove before they have to take the test that determines their success as a student for that school year.
Why aren’t they taking the tests at the end of the year? If these are truly the definitive measuring stick of a students education, why are the students not given the full school year to learn, and teachers a full year to prepare and teach the students? Why are they asked to take this test, which is basically their final (it’s what their progressed will be measured by), in May? Wouldn’t a June test with the chance to spend the entire school year learning be a better way to it?
I do understand that there needs to be benchmarks and there also needs to be ways to make both students and teachers accountable for their education. Is this the way, though, to boil an entire school year down to two days of ELA testing and two days of math testing that basically throw out the grades that a student has earned and base their educational experience on those four days?
Does there need to be a better system than what was in place before? The answer is probably yes.
Is this it, though...
Keith Lobdell is the editor of the Valley News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.