Why Are Children Forced to Take an Unproven Test?
By Jim Vail
Special to MyChiNews.com
A post I shared on Facebook said it best, “Why are we supposed to differentiate our instruction for children and then give them standardized tests?”
And give them the new Common Core standardized tests that most children failed in Illinois and throughout the country last year.
A growing number of parents and students who want to opt out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC test led to a bill that passed the Illinois House last year that would give parents a formal way to opt out of such standardized tests.
Some schools in Chicago led fights to opt students out of the tests despite threats from CPS.
A large number of parents in New York forced the education reform Governor Andrew Cuomo to push back the Common Core tests after more research is done.
According to Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post, more than 100 education researchers in California have called for an end to high-stakes testing, saying there is no “compelling” evidence that the Common Core State Standards will improve the quality of education or close the achievement gap, and that the tests lack “validity, reliability and fairness.”
“The California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education, a statewide collaborative of university-based education researchers, recently released a research brief describing concerns with the Common Core standards and the assessments being given to millions of students in California and other states around the country this spring,” Strauss wrote in her March 16 article entitled, “Education researchers blast Common Core standards, urge ban on high-stakes tests.”
According to Strauss, researchers from universities like Stanford and UCLA say the Common Core high-stakes tests, pushed by billionaires like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, actually harm students.
“Although proponents argue that the CCSS promotes critical thinking skills and student-centered learning (instead of rote learning), research demonstrates that imposed standards, when linked with high-stakes testing, not only deprofessionalizes teaching and narrows the curriculum, but in so doing, also reduces the quality of education and student learning, engagement, and success. The impact is also on student psychological well-being: Without an understanding that the scores have not been proven to be valid or fair for determining proficiency or college readiness, students and their parents are likely to internalize failing labels with corresponding beliefs about academic potential.”
The Chicago Teachers Union has been calling for less onerous testing and passed a resolution to abolish the Common Core tests. The union said that such unproven tests are used to close schools and fire teachers rather than pinpoint areas of academic weakness that need improvement.
The report out of California noted that these standardized tests would hurt graduation rates. A tentative contract agreement between the CTU and the Chicago Public Schools, which has not been agreed on yet, stated schools could only be closed if graduation rates fall.
The students who get hit even harder are the “low achieving students, minority students, and female students,” the report stated.
The Obama administration has pushed the Common Core with Race to the Top, using federal tax dollars to implement these standards. However, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump echoed many conservatives by stating he would abolish the Common Core and give states the final say on education.
Many said that the Common Core standards, while endorsed by the governors association, were written and pushed by conservative think tanks with little input from teachers.
It is truly amazing the number of tests children have to take today. I spoke to a bi-lingual teacher in the city who said his third-grade students take the NWEA MAP test three times a year, the Teaching for Reading Comprehension test three times a year, the ACCESS bi-lingual test which can take up to a month, and now the PARCC test, which schools will start administering in the upcoming weeks.
While the PARCC administrators decided to cut the test by 90 minutes, it is still a week’s worth of testing.
How much instructional time is lost to testing?
The Post article further cited concerns that the new assessments “lack basic principals of sound science, such as construct validity, research-based cut scores, computer adaptability, inter-rater reliability, and most basic of all, independent verification of validity.”
The majority of students who took the tests last year failed (low proficient), and predicted a 90% failure rate for English Language Learners (who make up 22% of CA public schools) in California, the research stated.
“The tests have not provided adequate accommodations for students with disabilities and English-language learners.”
The other concerns include the cost of the test. While cutting back on school budgets to fund more teachers and instructional materials, the costs for implementing the Common Core tests are high. In addition to signing contracts with testing companies like Pearson, the computer-based assessment costs are also high for schools, including upgrading equipment, bandwidth and technical support.
Illinois had earlier signed a four-year $160 million contract to administer the PARCC exam.
“In practical terms, this means that standardized testing has taken precedence over other priorities such as class-size reduction, quality teacher training and retention, programs in the arts, adequate science and technology equipment, and keeping neighborhood schools open,” the report stated.