Call to Boycott Flawed NY State Tests

Liz Hallmark writes in the Democrat and Chronicle recently (Feb. 5, 2015) about, Gov. Cuomo’s call to increase the use of student tests in teacher evaluations. I commend her article to you. In “Passing the Tests” she writes about the current overuse of tests, the proper use of tests, and the need to join networks that support a better conversation about tests.

Bill Cala, interim Superintendent of Fairport, recently challenged Governor Cuomo’s call to increase the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.

The use of tests to measure student learning has been fluctuating for many years in New York State. This is a result of the Common Core curriculum implementation without proper professional development for teachers and without proper pilot testing of state tests associated with the Common Core.

Tests should be useful. The best ones are those that can diagnose what students have or have not learned from class. Results from well-designed tests allow teachers to customize and target their teaching rather than constrict it toward further uniformity (Democrat and Chronicle).

One of the more obvious uses of tests should be the diagnostic evaluation of student learning in order to enhance the direction of instructional effort. Tests should be able to tell teachers, in real time, whether to push on with what was planned or re-teach in order to make sure comprehension is realized by students. And piling on teachers to teach to the test and be evaluated for these results seems to take the mis-use of tests to an absurdity.

What we really need are assessments that reveal why our governor and state education leaders continually refuse to fund and facilitate a public education system that could work better for students and teachers alike. Dismantling public education through harebrained high stakes testing mandates is diabolical, and well worth organized resistance. Cala is right to encourage families to boycott these flawed state tests, but it’s important to do more than that. If you are interested in joining conversations with good ideas about what robust public education might look like instead, investigate the Network for Public Education, and Parents Across America. (Democrat and Chronicle).

Liz Hallmark helps all of us to see that we need a more comprehensive conversation about the proper use of tests in student’s and teacher’s lives. Testing has been seen as the most important lever in accountability in the modern reform era of standards. But so far the mis-use of testing seems to be the largest outcome and we should talk about this, get it right, or abandon testing for this use.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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