Monday, March 17, 2014

"If you know it’s wrong but remain silent, you’re complicit in educational malpractice"

In a very moving and determined move, this Massachusetts parent tells his district what he thinks about ALL high stakes testing. This comes via The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post.

Rosa is an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth who specializes in curriculum and instruction, language policies, Literacy and social studies education. In his letter, he refers to the 2013 Massachusetts Statement Against High-Stakes Testing, which was signed by more than 130 Massachusetts professors and researchers from some 20 schools —  including Harvard, Tufts, Boston and Brandeis universities —urging state officials to stop overusing high-stakes standardized tests to assess students, teachers and schools.

Boy, I'd guess he'd be one of the ultimate parent experts given his profession.   And 130 academics all agreeing on something?  Not bad.

What did he have to say?  (Emphasis mine).

Last academic year, during the day MCAS was to be administered, my son was visibly sick. He insisted that he wanted to attend school to take the test. He opened the test booklet and proceeded to answer test items when his teacher noticed that something was wrong. She sent him to the nurse. I received a call.
 The nurse stated: “He is clearly not well, but he opened the test booklet and risks having his test invalidated if he is sent home. We’ll have him sit for a-little then send him back to the classroom to take the test. After the test we’ll send him home.” I was appalled. Ultimately, my son returned to take the MCAS, despite the early onset of the flu, and my resistance. 
Although he did not support the test, he felt compelled given the pressures. I don’t mean to impress upon readers that nurses in our school system are incompetent. I think they perform quite well and would perform stellar if our educational system was adequately funded. What I do mean to say is that the regime of high-stakes testing in our schools is not only deeply disturbing, but inhumane!
My intent to opt my children out of high-stakes testing, whether the test be MCAS, PARCC, or any other hip acronym that comes along in the shape of a high-stakes test designed to oppress, standardize, anaesthetize, and ultimately suffocate students.
I make this letter public because it’s not only my children that concern me. My children usually do well. High scores on high-stakes tests do not prove that true learning is occurring. Countless educational research have concluded that the use of high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and encourages test preparation as a substitute for engaged learning.

High-stakes testing are also deviance-producing mechanisms. A number of school systems across the country have been exposed for cheating and unethical practices due to the pressures of high-stakes testing. They are, in short, becoming Enron.
Furthermore, our continuous focus on scoring well evades more important public dialogue about funding inequities and the root cause of educational disengagement – poverty. Allowing testing corporations to continue reaping billions of dollars in profit off public education only exacerbates the problem. Any administrator, school committee member, or school functionary still standing before students, teachers, and families touting the virtues of high-stakes testing should be ashamed. And, if you know it’s wrong but remain silent, you’re complicit in educational malpractice.
I encourage readers to read the ‘Massachusetts Statement Against High-Stakes Testing’ endorsed by countless professors in the state, including myself. As MCAS is imposed on our schools next week and the rest of the school year, I encourage parents to write letters opting students out and requesting an in-school alternative to high-stakes testing. If we’re truly interested in ending bullying in schools, let’s end the bullying of high stakes testing. If families really have a “choice,” they must be allowed to exercise the choice to opt-out.

Food for thought with the coming SPS testing window.  


Anonymous said...

HSPEs start tomorrow at Nathan Hale. I understand they cover reading and writing but over 3 days? How many hours each day? If the SAT can occur on a Saturday morning even with the writing portion, why does this test take 3 days?

What are others thoughts on the HSPE? Is it worthwhile? Accurate? Too long? My eldest went to private high school and didn't have to deal with any of this stuff other than the SAT and ACT.


Anonymous said...

The writing exam is Tuesday and Wednesday. One essay each day, each on a different prompt. The reading exam is on Thursday.

The directions for Administration call for approximately two hours of testing time, followed by opportunity for those who want extended time to be relocated to a setting where they can finish.

Technically, the tests are untimed, with the caveat that once the student finishes for the day and leaves they are finished with that exam (unless they have an accommodation on an IEP or 504 plan that says otherwise).

I have seen very conscientious students use the entire day to craft an essay (and end up with a very high score). I have also seen a student use the fact that they were "still testing" to get out of classes for a day, but that kind of abuse is rare.

I have the most thankless job in the school. I'm...

A Testing Coordinator

Chris S. said...

I just heard a story about a student arguing (with documentation) that a score of 3 or 4 on an AP exam can substitute for one of the HSPEs and passing a math EOC can substitute for the math HSPE. Sounds reasonable, right? And probably true in terms of graduation requirements. But the adult just kept repeating "Nope, NCLB."

At Ingraham testing is 8-11 am on at least 3 days. Non-testers get to sleep in, hence the motivation to opt out. Can parents opt their child out?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Chris, that sounds farfetched to me (like some kid's dream). But yes, I think the NCLB issue would kick in.

Anonymous said...

Chris, there is no math HSPE --- only the math EOCs.

While a student may substitute a score of 3 or higher on certain AP exams for HSPE/EOC results for graduation purposes, they must attempt the HSPE/EOCs at least once to substitute them.

Also, for accountability purposes, the state may not substitute any alternative assessments as part of the 95% tested requirement under NCLB. In other words, the graduation alternative assessments due not count against the school, district, and state's requirement to test 95% of students.

--- swk