Editorial: Too much high-stakes testing hurts kids

Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much these days. But the compelling arguments for putting an end to No Child Left Behind — or as we like to call it, “No Child Left Untested” — seem to be bringing the two sides together. At least that’s the message delivered by congressional leaders who say that changing the federal education law is a top priority.

But the devil is in the details, and many who want to change the failed law are unwilling to end the barrage of high-stakes standardized tests. They call it “accountability.” But here’s the thing: If No Child Left Behind has taught us anything, it’s that testing does nothing to improve the quality of a child’s education.

Nor has it done anything to close the achievement gap that exists between affluent and high-poverty children. To the contrary, No Child Left Behind has allowed the joyful process of learning to be supplanted by tedious test preparation. It strips our children of valuable learning time and it prevents teachers from connecting one-on-one with their students.

Read the rest of the editorial by Lily and Megan Olivia Hall, 2013 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, and teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools.

3 Responses to “Editorial: Too much high-stakes testing hurts kids”

  1. Lacey Taschdjian

    Just finished emailing this to my reps re: ESEA. I thought I would share it with you
    “As an 10 year educator in an urban Title 1 school with high levels of children in poverty, English language learners, and students with disabilities, I want to share my views on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization by giving you a little inside to my day.

    Teaching has never been an easy job. Recently, it has become nearly impossible. The poorly planned roll out of the adoption of the Common Core has left my already-behind-8th-graders sprinting to catch up in a race that is impossible to win. Not impossible because they are not capable, impossible because we are not.
    I am honored and proud to work in what happens to be one of the worst performing districts in our state. Honored because my students are quite possibly the most resilient people on the planet, and proud because I am blessed to be in the trenches with some of the finest educators I’ve ever met.
    Our district, in an attempt to improve our turnaround status, have implemented their own mandated standardized district interim assessments, in Language Arts and Math, 5 times per year. With CMAS and PARCC and STARS, 7th and 8th graders take 26 separate standardized test this year, accounting for what one teacher calculated to be about 22% of our school year.
    Precious educational minutes stolen from the children who need it the most. It should be a crime.
    As we embark on our second round of testing season, I will implore you to do what I always try to do as an educator: never forget what it feels like to be a child.
    So put yourself back in 8th grade, It’s the first day back after spring break. Welcome Back! District Language Arts Interim Assessment! Tomorrow? District Math Interim Assessment! Then you get to learn for 3 whole days. Then, tadaa! CMAS science for 3 days. While 7th grade takes a turn CMASing you get to learn for 5 days and then tadaa! PARCC End of Year, 3 more math and language arts sessions each (yes, I know you just did that two months ago). You’re almost done now, but you still owe us a STARS Spring language arts and math score, since we don’t seem to have enough data about you by now. As teachers we can celebrate your growth, but as a student, you just got yet another data report telling you that no matter how hard you worked this year, you are still red/unsatisfactory/at risk/serious intervention/reteach and all of the other academic label synonyms that remind you that you still aren’t good enough and tell your teacher what she already knew, but didn’t have time to fix because her expertise we used proctoring yet another exam. Even though your teacher is constantly trying to foster your growth mindset, school is starting to become much more like your life outside of school in our community; a challenge to see how many times you can get back up after we kick you down.

    I pride myself as an educator that advocates for children and so I promised myself this year, when I watched so many of them hit their “testing-breaking-point” that I had to reach mine. I can not continue to build them up, when these scores continue to tear them down. Add in things like technology, resource, and staffing shortages, extreme pressure from administration for students to perform, and fear of turnaround and misadministration, that even if a student has finally grown apathetic about test scores we provide them an extra 8 hours in a stress and pressure filled environment.
    As you sit down together to work on this bill, I hope for 2 things: One, that you will think of my students, the catastrophic levels of testing and the effect to their psyche. And two, that while you are doing the job you love and dedicate your life to, that I will be allowed to do the same.
    My students deserve it. “

  2. Terry (Theresa) Reger

    I retired in 2007. When I first started teaching 36 years prior to 2007, teaching was fun for the teacher and fun for the students, Testing has taken the fun out of teaching. I remember one unit I did with my eighth graders. We had a trial. The British put the Americans on trial for breaking away from England. By the end of the trial, every student knew more about the American Revolution than any test could tell me as a teacher. One parent told me her son spent more hours in the library to win the trial than all the years he spent in school prior to eighth grade. One student told me he was going to impeach Charles Townsend because he spent most of his time in the pubs. He read this in the library. That true learning! That is extending the learning of our children, not making them learn facts about the American Revolution.

  3. Ricardo Abreu

    Sure, we all too much testing is a curse but else besides begging Democrats to be Democrats is the NEA prepared to do? It’s high time to demand that if politicians, regardless of affiliation, do not support scaling back the testing they forego our support.


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