Parents Say No! to Standardized Tests
It is spring, the season for standardized testing in schools across the nation. There are reports of massive numbers of students opting out of tests their parents consider improper, excessive, or damaging. The reasons for opting out vary:
- Parents object to huge, profit-making companies using their children as unpaid ‘guinea pigs’ to try out questions for the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) Common Core tests.
- The tests are not useful to teachers, parents, or students because they don’t assess important areas of learning; questions and answers are secret; and scores are not returned in a timely manner.
Parents, teachers, and students object to spending millions of dollars on testing and computer infrastructure for online testing while schools suffer increased class size and cuts to arts, sports, and other engaging activities.
- As a result of stress and anxiety, students are crying, vomiting and soiling themselves during standardized exams. Children fear that if they fail, their teachers will suffer. Some justifiably worry they will be denied promotion to the next grade or graduation. (Washington Post, 4-15-14)
“Computer Adaptive” Tests
Students usually take Common Core tests created by PARCC and SBAC on a computer. The tests are “computer adaptive,” which is described at the SBAC website:
Based on student responses, the computer program adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment. For example, a student who answers a question correctly will receive a more challenging item, while an incorrect answer generates an easier question. By adapting to the student as the assessment is taking place, these assessments present an individually tailored set of questions to each student and can quickly identify which skills students have mastered. (SmarterBalanced.org)
The SBAC website claims this will give better information than “paper-and-pencil assessments” and provide “more accurate scores for all students across the full range of the achievement continuum.”
But how can student achievement be compared in an effective manner when all students in a grade are not taking the same exam? A computer-adaptive process that makes questions easier or harder can work in a blended learning environment in order to help a student achieve mastery before moving on to more difficult subject matter. It can also allow a student to advance more rapidly if the student has mastered the topics in a certain segment of the curriculum. But it fails as a way to determine what all students at a grade level or in a particular course of study know.
You Have No Right
The Fordham Institute, an organization that fiercely defends all things Common Core, maintains that parents have no right to opt their students out of testing. Fordham claims that parents may decide if they want their child to attend public or private school or can choose to homeschool them. Then Fordham proclaims, “But when [parents] expect the state to educate their children at public expense, the public has a right to know whether those children are learning anything . . .; whether taxpayers are getting a decent ROI (return on investment) from the schools they’re paying for; and whether their community, their state, their society will be economically competitive and civically whole in the future as a result of an adequately educated populace.”
Continuing its comments aimed at parents who wish to decide what is best for their children, the Fordham Institute claims opting out is “not a legitimate form of civil disobedience. And it’s probably not legal, either.” They suggest to parents: “If you really find state tests odious, put your money and time where your mouth is — and stop asking taxpayers to educate your children.” Many parents would remove their children from public school if they were given vouchers or tax credits to be used toward sending their children to private schools.
No one asked parents if they wanted their children to be educated under the strictures of Common Core. No one asked them if high scores on standardized testing should be the ultimate goal of their children’s education. Parents are taxpayers, too, and deserve to have a say in the way their children are educated.
While many believe grades on class work are a better measure of student learning than standardized tests, Fordham proclaims that “teacher-conferred grades” or “promotions and graduations” do not “prove that learning occurred.” (EdExcellence.com) The Fordham Institute suggests that only standardized tests can do that. Yet Fordham justifies the use of Common Core tests, which are computer adaptive and are changed for each student. Unfortunately, such tests fail to tell taxpayers whether students have learned.