One of the few good things about the current regime of high stakes tests in public schools is that it’s possible to opt out. Parents are legally given the option of having their children not take the tests, or take the English test but not math or vice versa. For years this was a little-known fact, and presumably the bureaucrats in charge preferred it that way. In the last few years, the movement to opt out from testing has exploded.
High stakes testings started in a few states in the 90’s. The No Child Left Behind Act made in mandatory in every state in 2001. The implementation of Common Core standards has brought new tests in most states. Test scores are used for everything from evaluating teachers to determining which school are labeled “failing” and subject to takeover by state government. Schools and districts pour massive amounts of time and money into test preparation. Less and less time gets spent on giving students a well-rounded education, while more and more is spent relentlessly drilling them for the tests.
Opt out brings many advantages. On an individual level, a student who doesn’t take the test is spared from a great deal of stress and fear, since students are threatened with being held back a year if they don’t do well enough. In the time when other students are taking the tests, those who opt out can either stay home, or spend the time in school working on other topics.
On a broader level, the law requires that 95% of students in a school take the exam, or the results cannot be used for teacher evaluations of anything else. Thus, once the percentage that’s opting out goes past 5%, much outside meddling by politicians and bureaucrats can be kept at bay. The results from New York show that getting past that 5% mark is possible. It’s now the norm in much of the state. Here’s hoping that it will soon be the norm in the whole country.
That’s an interesting way to interpret the two sentences in the article that discusses this. Are you getting information from another source? This is what the article says:
Is that option the parents are given an implicit option, or an explicit option? I also question your characterization of “high stakes” testing. Why the charged language?
Is that supposed to be bad? I think it’s great. If the test doesn’t accurately measure aptitude in some area the test can be changed, but I see nothing wrong with focusing on passing standardized tests.
Wonderful lesson being taught there. Perhaps when these students come of age they can opt out of work assignments they find too stressful. If a student can’t pass an assessment of their knowledge, they should be held back.
Another interesting characterization. This is what the article says:
That’s what you call outside meddling by politicians being kept at bay? That seems exactly like outside meddling. Where does the article say that 95% test rate must be achieved to be used for teacher evaluation? I can’t find it in the article you linked.
Life is full of a series of tests. The sooner kids learn that the better.
I’m in Texas, and not a teacher or a parent, but it seems that the amount of stress being put on students is incredible, and the amount of time focused on standardized tests is crazy. In my years as a student I don’t remember anyone every throwing up from stress, but a teacher friend tells me that it’s surprisingly common for kids to do it at her school. There are instructions with the packet about what to do if a kid throws up on their answer sheet. Even kids who aren’t old enough to take the test get stressed out because they hear constantly how big of a deal it is.
I don’t know if I was a student or parent right now if I’d opt out, but I’m not bothered by those who do. Maybe this will help changes some expectations for standardized testing.
I didn’t know that this was an option not well known as I began to read the OP. My initial reaction was surprise that the number was so low. And now I’ll stop because the rant warning light just went on.
It is my understanding that the threat to chop off the supply of federal or state money to a school because too many kids in that school opted out is essentially an empty threat, at least in the great majority of cases. There’s a lengthy discussion of that here. First, the main basis of the threat is that a school can lose funds if it doesn’t prove “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). However many states have waivers which negate that possibility. There are also plenty of bureaucratic, legal, and public relations obstacles which basically guarantee that nobody is actually going to strip funding away from any school because of this issue. And supposing that a politician actually tried to do so, can anyone doubt that the decision would immediately be challenged in court?
For professional reasons I’m leery of airing my opinion about opting out, even under a pseudonym. Maybe that’s cowardice, whatever. I will say that as much as I disagree with you on almost all educational issues, ITR, it’s nice to know there are places where we are in agreement :).
At any rate, in North Carolina, there are no opt-out procedures. Some parents have apparently had luck “refusing” the test instead of opting out. Their child’s blank test is still scored, with all answers marked incorrect, and the resulting failing score counts against the school on NCLB measures as well as the state school accountability system, and if the kid is a third grader, can (under highly specific circumstances) lead to the child’s retention.
Interesting. I’m of the opinion that the Federal Dept of Ed shouldn’t exist so that’s kind of a conflict, but I would be fine if funding gets cut for non-compliance.
I still don’t see any problem with standardized tests. Schools must at a minimum focus on the core educational goals. The best way to measure that is with tests. Kids should learn early that life is full of tests - if they fail or don’t participate, they should be judged.
I don’t know about that. I’m coming up on forty in a few months, and since I graduated college, I haven’t yet found myself in a situation where my professional advancement depended on my ability to fill in little circles on a piece of paper.
Are you under the impression that these tests replace classroom assessment? Because they don’t. The kids still have tests from their teachers, but now they ALSO have weeks of standardized testing. Why double the work? If these standardized tests are what we need to evaluate the students, then get rid of classroom testing. But I’d rather trust the teachers as competent assessors, since that’s what their degree was supposed to teach them to do. If we still want classroom level assessments, then let’s get rid of social promotion and give those assessments some teeth, and get rid of the standardized testing.
I wish I could say the same. I fill out Medicare nursing assessments for a living. My life is one big bubble test.
There are a lot of common core goals in math and language arts. Some of those goals are easier to test than others. Compare:
The second goal is easy to write multiple choice questions for. Give a kid a nonfiction reading passage, then ask them “Which of the following is the best title for the passage you just read?”
The first goal is nearly impossible to write a multiple choice question for. In my experience, nobody writes such questions.
If a school’s future depends on kids filling in the correct bubbles, administration may require teachers to teach to the test. Teachers will spend a huge amount of time teaching children to come up with alternate titles for nonfiction texts, and little to no time teaching children how to conduct research.
Are you okay with this result of high-stakes testing?
Well I believe in standardized testing AND I think the tests should be mandatory for graduation. Other countries have exit exams. The GED is a standard test. The ACT is a standard test so I dont see the problem.
I think you probably took standardized tests as part of your education, through college though, right? The ability to perform well on these tests impact at a minimum the process by which you earned a degree. To the extent that the tests are a means to an end - being accept to college and earning a degree, then they were necessary. That degree facilitates your career choice, and in that respect, though you don’t need that skill now, it was useful at the time. Much like the binomial theorem or reading Billy Budd.
I don’t believe the tests replace classroom assessment. It’s not necessarily double work, though I agree it could be. The classroom assessment has a different purpose than the standardized tests I presume. The standardized tests are meant to evaluate students to a certain specific standard. The classroom itself can evaluate students on different criteria if it chooses. But the idea is that folks in certain grade levels should have a certain core set of knowledge, and the standardized tests are a way to assess that. They are supposed to represent a baseline.
I think you’re a teacher, right? I’m not. I accept you have experience in the field and I do not. Take that for what it’s worth.
Not everything can be taught in the limited time available. In the example you gave, I’d rather the 2nd goal be mastered before the first. If it takes a huge amount of time to teach the second, then that should be a prerequisite for the learning the first. But I think that’s just this example. In general, I think there are things that are going to be easier and harder to create tests for, and the idea you are advancing is that teachers will tend to teach what is easier rather than what is harder, at times to the detriment of other areas that are equally or more valuable, right?
I think what you say may happen. But then again, I think that a certain baseline knowledge should be a prerequisite to other advanced topics. If those baseline items are all mastered, then they should take very little time. If it does take a huge amount of teaching time to gain mastery over the basics, then that’s probably time well spent. What constitutes the basics should vary based on the grade level of course.
SAT and ACT tests are generally the standard when applying to college in the US. For grad school, I understand there’s the GMAT, LSAT, GRE, etc. which are also standardized tests. For various certification in business there are loads of tests. CPAs, CMAs, PMP, CFA, Series 6, 7, etc. are all standardized tests or have components that are standardized tests. I’m sure there are more. (I’m ignoring ongoing CPE and other education that is required to maintain some of those licenses). Tests are the way we have chosen to measure people’s knowledge and skill in many areas and is often used as a baseline to compare large groups of people. I can’t think of a more effective way to measure a student in City A vs. City B.
If the test scores for a particular subject at a particular grade level are significantly different in City A vs. City B, I’ve learned something. If the grades for City A vs. City B are significantly different, or even if they are the same, what have I learned if the grading itself is subjective? I don’t think the test is the end of the educational process - it’s the beginning.
Here’s a story from one of my kid’s 2nd grade class. The teacher was probably the best teacher I’ve ever seen, in all of my years of school combined. All the students would have a little clicker, like they used to have on *Who Wants to be a Millionaire. * The teacher would display various questions for the whole class, and everyone would very quickly click what they thought the answer was. This applied to any manner of subject the teacher devised. Instantly she would see the results of the class, and based on a series of quick questions, could assess how the class was absorbing the material. She could accelerate or decelerate immediately. Not only that, each student’s responses were tabulated for later and she could identify a student who individually was or was not grasping the material. I’ve never seen it before, and I think it was awesome. I don’t know where she got the tool, or the software. It definitely is not standard at the school. Testing is a quick way to find out where people are at with certain baseline knowledge. It’s a tool.
In some respects, it totally is. But eliminating it at the early levels while retaining it for college placement and other areas is worse. As long as that’s the system that is employed it should be taught.
It’s like a college degree for some jobs. At a minimum, it doesn’t matter what you learned, it just shows that you took enough effort to complete the tasks and is a way to separate you from the folks that didn’t complete the tasks. These are the hoops that we’ve concocted and at least the person who does those demonstrated they have the skill to do so. I mean, seriously, why did I spend a semester learning the binomial theorem? I did it to pass the class. I passed the class to pass the grade level. I did that to graduate school. I did that to go to college. I did that to get a job. Do I care about the binomial theorem at all? No.