To the Editor:
High-stakes testing is causing unforgivable harm to young people. It’s also doing harm to good teachers who are compassionate enough to teach students who enter the classroom with math, reading, and writing skills that are years below grade level. Test results are closing schools that have been a second home to their students.
The quality of teaching is compromised when teachers are haunted by anxiety over the influence student test results will have on their own performance evaluations (as mandated by law).
It is only natural that teachers are overly influenced by the tests that our students take, because the fate of an entire school now rests on those results.
Before high-stakes testing became law, the typical high school taught keyboarding (formerly typing), home economics, shop, and auto repair. Schools need to teach life skills again—without the gender bias this time. We still need to honor and respect the myriad other skills that are needed in this society, such as creativity, teamwork, communication, compassion, and dedication. Technology skills such as coding are being neglected because they are not easily tested.
The solution is cutting back on testing. Lawmakers must limit the impact of testing so that no more than a few days per school year are spent on testing. It is unfair that our public school students lose significant instructional time to testing, while students in private schools are exempt from those requirements and receive more instruction as a result.
We also need to change the way that testing data are used so that they become measures of student growth rather than standardized measures of passing or failing.
Students who show improvement from year to year should be viewed as succeeding, even if they don’t meet a set “pass” score.
Special Education Teacher
Central High School
A version of this article appeared in the September 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Test Emphasis Crowds Out Crucial Life-Skills Training