Margaret Allen Middle School (Nashville TN) after 2012 found itself included on Metro’s iZone list of schools performing so poorly they have received grants to extend both the school day and the school year.  During the last school year, Margaret Allen students improved their scores in every tested subject on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program.  In 2013, students at her Margaret Allen Middle School made so much progress last year that the school landed on the state’s list of top achievers.

This was achieved using fewer than 10 standardized tests a year.  Another school in the same district (Metro-Nashville), gives 20 tests a year to third graders. The success of this one school, is being pinned on their “data room.”   Whiteboards with the name of every student line the walls. Each student’s test results are posted, along with an individual improvement plan for each child. The “data room” is jam-packed with test results that the principal uses to create custom lesson plans for every child in her troubled school.

Get that?

The principal creates  the lesson plan, customized for each student….

Shouldn’t they be running the school?

Yes, according to a growing number of Tennessee parents who are joining their counterparts in other states in questioning the heavy use of standardized testing that forms the basis of so many education decisions….   The  testing process is sapping the very life out of students, the school, and community spirit.

“It used to be that teachers were glad to see you,” said a parent.  “They wanted to talk to you to figure your kid out, and we as parents wanted to talk to them, to likewise, figure our own kids out..   Now, they are disinterested.  One can tell by their glances towards their computer, that they just want to get our conversation over with, so they can get back to it;  they can keep ahead of these tests that keep coming, and coming.”

So what can be done?

As a commenter in another post here pointed out,  doing one test a year, as in a final, would be sufficient.  It would show what we learned, and what we did not.  Accountability could be exacted from the year to year totals,  just as easily as it is from the beginning, middle, and ending totals.  Furthermore the standardized testing would give ourselves a comparative look between schools, districts, states and nations all of which we are trying to do today.

Obviously no one wants to lose the gains we’ve had;  being enriched with data can improve a bad school into a good one.  However, in this equation, long term damage is not measured, only year to year.  We don’t know how much long term damage too much testing will cause.   But we do know, that spending more quality time teaching, is what is necessary to get children to absorb what they learn.  We do know, that only a teacher who knows and loves a child, will try until they find the correct approach which works with each individual. We must do more to fill in the gaps our focus on testing has caused to rupture, crack, and open underneath our feet.

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