Meet The Bada** Teachers Association: Here’s What They Think Of Standardized Testing
The Bada** Teachers Association is a group of more than 51,000 educators, who have decided to band together to organize resistance to school reform that places standardized testing front-and-center as the way of telling if a student is “ready” for the world. Among the major gripes that the BTA has with current educational reform is how it ignores the role that poverty plays in the lives of students and what they achieve. They’re tired of not being listened to, and one of their key spokespeople has just taken a major stand against what she calls the “testing wolves.”
Twenty-five-year veteran Dawn Neely-Randall penned a heartfelt blog that shows the kind of agony teachers and students alike are feeling in an overly tested world. The post was reposted to the Washington Post.
Here’s an excerpt:
“I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a politician. I’m not part of the 1 percent. I don’t own an education testing company. I am just a teacher and I just want to teach.
My life changed dramatically after a Facebook lament I wrote was published on The Answer Sheet last March. I was explaining how weary I was from the political addiction to mass standardized testing and how educationally abusive it had become to so many of the students in my care.
Last spring, you wouldn’t find the fifth-graders in my Language Arts class reading as many rich, engaging pieces of literature as they had in the past or huddled over the same number of authentic projects as before. Why? Because I had to stop teaching to give them a Common Core Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) online sample test that would prepare them for the upcoming PARCC pilot pre-test which would then prepare them for the PARCC pilot post test – all while taking the official Ohio Achievement Tests. This amounted to three tests, each 2 ½ hours, in a single week, the scores of which would determine the academic track students would be placed on in middle school the following year.
In addition to all of that, I had to stop their test prep lessons (also a load of fun) to take each class three floors down to our computer lab so they could take the Standardized Testing and Reporting (“STAR”) tests so graphs and charts could be made of their Student Growth Percentile (SGP) which would then provide quantitative evidence to suggest how these 10-year-olds would do on the “real” tests and also surmise the teacher’s (my) affect on their learning.
Tests, tests, and more freakin’ tests.
And this is how I truly feel in my teacher’s heart: the state is destroying the cherished seven hours I have been given to teach my students reading and writing each week, and these children will never be able to get those foundational moments back. Add to that the hours of testing they have already endured in years past, as well as all the hours of testing they still have facing them in the years to come. I consider this an unconscionable a theft of precious childhood time.
One parent sent me her district’s calendar showing that students would complete 21 mandated (K-3) assessments before a child would even finish third grade. When I asked an Ohio Department of Education employee about this, she insisted there were not that many tests. When I read them to her one by one from the district’s calendar, she defended her position by saying that some of them were not from her department, but from another one. “But it’s the SAME kid!!!” I told her.
Indeed, it sure seems that school just isn’t for children anymore.
As I sat in my recliner writing about my frustrations all those months ago, I felt that I was sitting alone in a darkened theater watching a horror movie with my students in the starring roles. After it was published, however, it seemed as if the lights had been switched on and I found that the room was full of people from across the nation and they were just as traumatized as I.
Many Ohio teachers told me they were afraid to speak out because it might hurt their rating based on the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) framework for scoring (now House Bill 362). When I, for example, worked through this process last year, I was evaluated based on my students’ test scores as well as the evidence of “teacher performance” my principal had collected on me. One 40-minute lesson alone took me over seven hours to write up.
Since OTES also evaluates teachers based on their “positive rapport” as well as their “active volunteer, community, and family partnerships,” of course, teachers were afraid to speak out against harmful test practices and risk sounding negative and, of course, they worried about not being perceived as a team player if they didn’t want to be a part of test pep rallies or hosting parent PARCC information nights.
When teachers are being rated based on student test scores as well as their own attitudes about such, speaking out becomes a very risky business.
Principals too are afraid to speak out. Why? What if their disgruntlement empowers their staff to rally against all the testing and parents started opting their children out of taking the tests? In Ohio, a zero is given in place of a score if a student does not take a standardized test. This zero is then averaged into the school’s rating on the state report card, which then affects the district’s rating. Administrators don’t have a union backing them to give them the freedom to advocate on behalf of students; most of them only have term contracts.
Parents were afraid to speak out because they are worried that school officials might consider them trouble makers or, worse, hold it against their child. And parents have no idea how their child’s teacher feels because — back to the beginning — many teachers are afraid to speak out.
One parent told me recently that she asked her daughter’s teacher if she thought her 10-year-old could handle the stress of the new PARCC pilot test and the teacher said she had been advised to say “no comment” when it came to either topic of the Common Core curriculum or testing. (What country do we live in, anyway?!)
Many students didn’t speak out as much as they acted out. Cried. Gave their parents a hard time about going to school. Disengaged in class. Got physically sick. Or became a discipline problem. Struggling students struggled even more.
Last school year, one of my fifth-grade below-level readers was working hard and making great gains. However, during the big Ohio Achievement Assessment in reading at the end of April, when she had already put in about an hour and a half of testing with an hour to go, the stress became too much and she had a total meltdown. As much as I had already reminded her “this is just one test on one day in your life” and “just do your best,” this student was smart enough to know that this “one test” would determine the class she would get into in middle school and I knew she was worried about being pulled out of class for remediation (again).
This child sobbed because she cared so much and watching her suffer became a defining moment for me. It became blatantly obvious how one high-stakes standardized test had just negated the year’s worth of reading confidence and motivation she had worked so hard to attain. I can no longer be a teacher who tries to build these 10-year-olds up on one hand, but then throws them to the testing wolves with the other.
My student had trusted me and jumped through hoops for me all year long, but then in her greatest moment of testing distress, all I could do was hand her some tissues.”
Check out the rest at this WaPost link.
As for the contents, do you think that Dawn Neely-Randall is correct in pointing out that standardized testing is unfairly pressuring students and destroying the valuable instruction time that teachers have with their students? Sound off in the comments section.