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February 21, 2014

Those standardized tests American parents love to hate? Maybe we love them, after all.

Adults-raising-handsBy Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

“How will we know how our kids are doing without the state tests?” asks the woman up front.

Wearing a purple batik blouse, black suit pants, long graying hair pulled into a messy twist – and though I failed to check, undoubtedly Birks, Toms, or clogs – she’s the sort of hyper-involved, left-leaning parent I’ve come to expect ‘round these parts. We’re a gluten-free scone’s throw from Berkeley, after all.

To put it mildly, this is not a crowd where I expect to hear distress over lack of testing. And yet the other parents are nodding. They agree: without tests, how will they know whether their children – and the schools – are making progress? How soon till the tests begin again? Will there be other measures? The speaker tries to reassure the angst-ridden moms and dads by promising that, even though California won't be testing kids for one year as schools transition to the Common Core Standards, district-mandated standardized tests will still happen. My sense is that this answer seems like nothing more than a Band-Aid to these anxious parents.

Something we love to hate…

For a long, long time, “standardized testing” was uttered like a four-letter word in many parts of the country. The trio of policy maker (George W. Bush), policy (NCLB), and effect (mandated standardized tests) were all regularly muttered as epithets. In the press, the bad rap hasn’t dissipated with time. Education thought leaders and researchers continue to assail the lesser points of testing. In their recent New York Times Magazine article, Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman wrote: “Never before has the pressure to perform on high-stakes tests been so intense or meant so much for a child’s academic future. … even third graders feel as if they are on trial.” Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss wrote a column enumerating the “Five absurdities about high-stakes standardized tests.” Strauss and others have written about teachers, principals, and parents despising these tests – and the detriment to kids, teachers, schools, and education.

Given our somewhat tortured relationship with standardized tests – tainted as they are by NCLB, cheating teachers, unfair teacher evaluations, and childhood misery – you’d think that now that we’re throwing NCLB out, we’d also be chucking standardized tests and letting the door hit them on their way out. Not so. Though 42 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have NCLB waivers, none are getting rid of testing. As the majority of states move toward Common Core, the only discussions about testing seem to be centered around which new tests the state will use, new question formats, and using technology to take tests – not doing away with testing. I have been pondering this head-scratcher silently… and then I attended this Oakland school district conference for parents about the Common Core. The news that California schools are skipping standardized tests to give educators and students time to adapt to Common Core hasn’t triggered mass celebrations (well, maybe among teachers, which is another story, but not among parents). The mother’s concern over missed testing floored me. Those tests we love to hate - could some people secretly appreciate them now?

…but actually love?

As an education writer, I’m skeptical about standardized tests using poorly thought-out questions and unfair access issues when it comes to technology. But I am nodding right along with the crowd, fairly convinced the batik-clad mom’s got a point. Without the tests: how will we know how well schools are teaching Common Core?

Turns out this mom - and this crowd of parents - are not alone in their appreciation of standardized tests. A recent poll reflects this attitude shift among parents. Last summer, 1,025 American parents of K-12 children answered a series of questions about education. The nationally representative AP-NORC poll shows a majority of parents view standardized tests as helpful. A full 75 percent of parents say standardized tests are a solid measure of their children's abilities, and 69 percent say standardized tests are a good measure of their schools' quality. Somewhere along the line, we’ve come to value the benchmarking these scores afford us. Sure, there are still vehement test haters and lovers. But for the masses who lean less passionately one way or the other, this is more than just acceptance of a necessary evil. It smells like test appreciation.

Comments

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Testing is most definitely a mixed bag. We need to have a way to keep the teaching on par. Yet, it will only be a few years before the teaching to those tests too. Especially if we are holding teachers accountable for their students' improvement.

I want to know how my kid does compared to other kids. I want to know how my kid's school does compared to other schools. But beyond that, I don't need a bunch of testing. Testing costs money, that indeed does come out of classroom budgets.

I am not a big fan of the tests as of now. because my child was tested without me being aware and she was then moved to a so called lower class with other students and in turn she has now blended in with the students that have lower grades. I was upset because i knew this would be a problem as i just recently had a complaint by the teacher he said it himself that my child is being sucked in with the crowd of the kids that the school itself labels them kids the bad kid class. being a good child and being able to test well on a test are two different things my child grade isn't suffering in this class and wasn't suffering in the smarter kid class but since her test had a low score she was moved to a lower class because they said the test proved that my child would not be able to keep up with the direction the smarter class was going in. The test supposedly proved that notion.

I love the testing, it gives the kids a sense of accomplishment when they have met their goals or exceeded them. It also helps the teachers to see which child needs additional help or where they are lacking.

These tests suck almost as bad as the stupid common core classes. Basically all the common core classes teach that liberals are great and conservatives are scum. Time to get back to reading, writing and arithmetic AND History and cut all the other crap out.

The state tests in NY do not show what teachers taught and do not show what students learned. Teachers never see them before to know what is on them or after to see what kids got wrong or right. They are not used to drive instruction or to place kids in gifted or AIS programs because the scores are cut and manipulated by NYSED. The tests and test prep time and material are a waste of teacher time, class time and student time and a waste of district money. They are used to inaccurately rate students teachers and schools. My children will not be participating in these tests so long as this is the case and billionaires, testing companies, private corporations are profiting from them and the data schools are giving away with them test results. Most parents are MISINFORMED about them.

To expect the 2017 graduates to reach 'proficient' or NOT get a HS diploma is ridiculous. This is an UNFUNDED mandate -- teachers aren't up to speed on this curriculum -- and books haven't been purchased. It's nonsense!

I don't mind if my kid takes a couple of standardized tests at the end of the year, but that is hardly what is happening. MOY (middle of the year) tests started back in November, followed up with a bunch of data-driven instruction, followed up with more benchmark testing next week. The entire curriculum has been hijacked and now the majority of the instruction my kid receives is via worksheet packets and online lessons (total junk). Please stop promoting this high-stakes/standardized testing garbage. We have a HUGE problem on our hands and y'all are just making it worse.

Give me a class of academically focused students/parents, a class of readers and you will see great test scores. Give me a class of students and parents focused on the latest pop culture infotainment fad and you will see low test scores. This country, these parents, these students reap what they sow.

Too much time is spent on teaching tests!
Spend more time on content in math, science, social studies.

I am not against tests, they do tell us where kids are at. I do not agree with the current over testing. It takes away from meaningful lessons and the teachers end up with less time to teach because of it. We need to find a happy medium. To me, one or two standardized tests a year should be sufficient.

I'm so glad teachers will be accountable or their students test scores. That will get rid off all the lazy bad teachers.

I WAS A TUTOR FOR THE NCLB PROGRAM AND I ALSO TUTOR PRIVATELY. PARENTS WAIT UNTIL THEIR CHILD FAILS & MAYBE THEN THEY WILL GET HELP FROM AN EDUCATOR. I HAVE A MASTERS' DEGREE IN E.S.E. & I ONLY CHARGE MY PARENT'S 15.00 AN HOUR.
WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT? GETTING BEER FOR THE WEEK OR HAVING YOUR CHILD TUTORED, SO HE/SHE WILL NOT BE LEFT BEHIND?

I don't think we need standardized tests if we want to know if a student can apply what they have learned. Just give the student a few little objects to show the things and actions he is talking about, and have him demonstrate how he would use what he learned. If one asks a clever question for the student to solve, the student might have have to work out the details of how it could done. If you want to know if a teacher has taught that student well enough, you do the exact same test. If the student can't do it, the teacher fails. there are alternatives to state standardized tests.

Completely opposed to these tests and we will be opting-out! They are testing kids on material they have not been taught and the teachers are evaluated on that?? WHAT? Preparing for these tests is taking too much time away from the lesson plans that the teachers are putting together. Some of the so twisted an adult with a masters degree has a hard time answering. This is all done to collect data! Parents do not get the results! Keep the federal government and The Gates Foundation out of the classrooms. Too much stress for such young minds. Common Core is a rotten Apple and needs to go. Do your homework on this. Opt your kid out of these tests

Standardized testing is a joke. My children have always done well, but I think it's ridiculous to put so much pressure on young kids to perform. I have one child in a traditional brick and mortar setting and one child in a virtual online setting. The virtual school gives my child assessment tests at the beginning, middle and end of the year. That should be more than sufficient to see how he is progressing. The first year my son had standardized testing in a brick and mortar school he missed exceeding by 2 points. The teacher begged to let them test him again so he would exceed and bring up their schools scores! At least with the virtual school once you meet you are done. I just think we put too much emphasis on standardized tests. Let's put the emphasis on our curriculum and smaller class sizes so teachers can actually teach our kids. If we value our children's educations we should do everything in our power to help kids and teachers be successful, instead of punishing them because of one stupid test score.

Testing has its positives and negatives. On the plus side it demonstrates the importance of testing. I have heard, "my child knows the material but doesn't test well". I don't by it. the system doesn't care. To get into college you have to test well, period, end of story.
On the negative side, students are pulled out of class, schedules are changed for testing. Millions are spent on testing that could be spent on books, staff, up keep, etc. Students are not taught to reason or think, they are taught to recognize question types and strategies to pass the test.

When I taught, I gave frequent tests. Often short ones and I would often test the same things. I would then review which questions were missed most and then review how I taught that area. Test were to gain feedback on how to proceed. My students didn't fear tests because they were like street cars if they did poorly on one, another would come along real soon.

They knew the tests were taking them and me some place good -- knowledgeLand.

love yorkwood and its principal!!!!!! a great team also

There is so much more to any school than the grade that it receives from the state based on limited data. I love the education my daughter is receiving at Eminence Junior-Senior High School. This school system is truly the heart of our community.

Testing is an interesting subject--all tests measure something. The tests we have been reading about here actually are measuring several things--one is what the student knows, but that is a reflection of the other side of the equation, it is also a measure of how well the subject was taught, not to mention how well the student chose to listen, and that all is tempered by the fact that no two people have the same ability to learn. So, we have one test measuring a bunch of things. Nonetheless the tests are a good--indeed the best we have--predictor of future success. Every student should know that someday they will be in a situation where they are competing for something they very much want against a person who did very well on the tests. It is nice that each and every can find out where they stand while there is still time to do something about it. In the case of Greeley, anybody not living in a cave knew perfectly well that Greeley's schools were in the toilet--but before testing those advocating change simply found themselves in a swearing contest with those who resisted it. Today we know that there is a strong correlation between the test we use and other national tests--and that those test remain the only window through which we can gain a reasonable glimpse of a given child's likely hood of attaining their life's goals.
Stan Kerns

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Tests are not bad. But we have way to many that have little to do with student learning and the stakes are way to high. Only two tests are considered by Arne Duncan 1) National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (also call the national report card) and 2) The PISA exam. This being true why should there be other tests since THE boss only considers these. The others are of no concern, cost lots of money, and wastes valuable class time. There is only one test that impacts the student and they must pass it to graduate .. they are not dumb and know this .. and laugh off the other tests as it only means something to the teachers and the school not to them.

Tests used to be tools for the teacher .. now they are weapons to be used against the teachers, administrators, and funding.

Get the government / and unions out of the teachers face and let them do what they are trained and paid to do.

Testing and "TRUE" grades are vital for parents and children to know "exactly" where they stand.

SAT's and AIM's are where we as parents and the student's know where they rank but by the time they take those tests, if a school is not fairly grading the child, by the time they get the SAT and AIM's scores, it can be a shocker to everyone!

In our children's school in Queen Creek, Arizona, a newly opened Charter High School, they have implemented a grading scale which the school gives all the teachers 30% and in some instances 35% of each of the children's "OVERALL" acedemic grade to be subjective based on the teacher's opinion on whether your child's behavior is within the standards they want enforced. The school has labled that area of teacher's control (30% and in some instances 35%) of the overall grade as "Participation."

Word meaning is critical to understand that the schools around the state are using the word "Participation" and are giving a grade 30% and in some instances 35% teacher control,in the overall acedemic report cared based on behavior.

In our school for instance, my son will get points taken away if he forgot his "red pen" and another child will get an "A" for just bringing in their book for the day! OMG!!! A child will be docked participation points if they walked into class just minutes late for any reason, (even though they would have already received a late slip for being late to school.) It's like taking a bite out of the apple 2 times.

The children are reward, or punished based on each teacher's individual subjective opinion of any particular child. All the while affecting 30% to 35% in some instances of every child's OVERALL ACADEMIC GRADE!!!

I am NOT OK with this!

All of my children's grades are 1 grade higher than they actually reflect if the Participation section of the grade for each class is removed~

Just because some children may not score high on tests or quiz's is no reason to allow a teacher to give higher participation points to offset the overall grade for any child JUST SO THEY PASS! But I have been told that this is a real action that would be considered by the teachers if they feel the child understands the material but just does not test well. I don't agree~

I don't want my child to get higher grades when they are failing their tests and doing poorly on homework! And it is happening!

Schools should not dismiss parents and their valid concerns by ignoring that this matter is affectng the "TRUE" grades for all students! Grading a child on performance is the true measure to know how well you student/child is performing and how well a school is performing. For a school to use 30%-35% for Participation, which is 100% subjective does overall either raise or lower any child's grade to give a false grade. This only can benefit the school to look like they are performing better than they are to the parents, prior to SAT's and AIMS scores coming out and it also allows the teacher's to score their student's higher to make their performance look better than it actually is. All this at the expense of EVERY CHILD who will have to be the test cases who will be the victims to these 30% subjective influence by the school/teacher.

If a school advertised that they were grading your child on a 50/50% grading scale. That being 50% of the grade was your child's acedemic grades for work/test/projects they actually performed, and the other 50% was at the teacher's subjective opinion of your child's behavior at school, and whether they were nice enough in class and if they never made any mistakes or forgot a pen or book, would you be okay with THAT?????

Remember, THIS IS YOUR CHILD's knowledge of the subjects at school will be only 50% of the grade and if they are not doing well, the school has 50% leverage to still have them look good and pass, would that be OKAY?

Well, the answer for me is "NO."
H*() NO!)

Why should any parent be okay with 30-35% of the grade be taken from your child and given to the teacher to acedemically score your child~

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN PARENTS!!!! And speak out for your children because they can't fight this battle without your voice~

Your children BELONG TO YOU! NOT the school and NOT the State!

Don't give up your parental authority, they are still minors and need you to not let have their "TRUE" grades stolen from them.

Hey, if your kid is scoring low, your only harming them to let a school given them a higher score to make your child feel better! IT's obvious they need help to understand the material and it's up to the parent to make sure the schools are doing their job. Their job is NOT to inflate the grade by 30-35% to make it look like things are okay!

US education is setting children up for a failure. Kids are coming back from school telling parents like me that they have a test that they didn't know about. After testing, papers aren't allowed to bring it back home so that parent or tutor can help them to work on it or improve it.
We as a parent are being kept out in the loop. It is very difficult to get involve to help when we are in a loop not knowing what they are being taught in class or when they are having another testing. Standardized testing doesn't help students to be more prepared but rather causes more confusion as they couldn't bring their test paper back to review with their parents or tutor or to seek help with questions they failed.
Personally, I'm very frustrated with this education system!

Common core is the way forward and testing and scoring is the only way to manage education...period.

If the kids get a test with questions they have never seen before - guess what, thats the whole point. You dont want to learn for a test and memorize numbers and events, like we had in the past, you want to have learned and be educated so you can handle the unknown better - thats real life experience.

No wonder that sits ill with conservatives if you actually educate the populace to start to truely think.

Given the moeny that gets dumped into the US education system it is currently highly inefficient in world wide comparison - that needs to change.

What we make of the results and how we react to it makes all the difference for the kids. A low performing kid needs extra help to catch up, a high performing kid could use extra activities (optional) or move up a class to be challenged again.

What stands in our way is the disgusting competetiveness some parents show and behave upon - whith a standard testing you have the chance to compare against something else than the kid next door you try to best....its about your education - not about just being better than your current surrounding.

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