My daughter missed more school last week due to the state’s standardized testing regimen than she did because of the teacher walkout. But only the latter seems to concern legislators.
Last week, when Seattle teachers walked out for a one-day strike, there was hand-wringing from politicians and others about how harmful it is to the kids to miss out on class time.
“The teachers are playing hooky, basically,” said state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who put in a bill to dock their pay for any time they’re not in class.
“It remains unfortunate that they use school kids as pawns in their political games,” echoed Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.
But after the one-day strike was over, what didn’t make headlines is what went on the rest of the week. Or rather, didn’t go on.
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At my daughter’s high school, after the strike on Tuesday, there was also no school for most students for half days on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. So while my daughter missed six-and-a-half hours of school due to the strike, she then missed another nine hours the rest of the week.
Why? Because of the state’s standardized testing.
Yes, after all the faux concern about schools being shuttered for the strike, it turns out my daughter’s school was shut down 50 percent longer that same week due to state-mandated testing.
Only sophomores were tested, but other classes were closed to free up staff to give the tests. My daughter is a freshman so she stayed home for those nine hours.
The strike day will be made up at the end of the year. But those nine hours really are lost class time. As one PTA parent calculated, nine hours times the 1,200 idled students at our school equals 10,800 hours of instructional time out the window — all as a direct result of state and federal education policy.
Hey, state senators: How about holding a hearing on something that actually is cutting into students’ class time? Your standardized testing regimen.
I have two kids in Seattle Public Schools, in seventh and ninth grades. Unfortunately for them, they are No Child Left Behind babies, meaning they were born at the same time as that test-proliferating monster.
So between them they have taken an eye-glazing 72 standardized tests.
Seriously, I counted it up. First it was the now-defunct “Washington Assessment of Student Learning,” or WASL. Then it was the “Measurements of Student Progress,” or MSP — now defunct as well. They also took multiple rounds of a computerized bubble-filler called the “Measures of Academic Progress,” or MAP.
It’s all been superseded now by yet another test, the SBAC, which in a hopeful sign stands for “Something Better Almost Certain.”
Just kidding. It actually stands for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is gibberish. I tried a practice test, though, and it’s like every standardized test ever devised in that you read short items and then write short answers or fill in multiple-choice bubbles.
I’m sure the test is fine. The issue is that this is probably the most heavily tested generation in U.S. history. To what end?
The argument is that it forces accountability and lifts up underperforming schools, both worthy goals. But the sheer number of tests is overkill. The lost class time for my two kids alone could equal a month’s worth of teachers’ walkouts.
Plus the results are never used to help them go back and work on weak areas. So if there’s value, it’s on a schoolwide or districtwide scale. Couldn’t that same societal raising of the bar be achieved with fewer bubble tests?
That’s the point being raised by the ironically named U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. He has a proposal to cut the number of federally mandated tests in half. Kids would still be tested in elementary, middle and high school, just not at nearly every grade as we do now.
Any reforms will probably come too late for my victims, I mean kids. For them it’s 72 and counting.
Oh well, if they’re not completely numb by senior year they’ll at least be skilled at bubble tests. Could come in handy on the SATs.