I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life teaching 8th grade math in a large urban district. The Common Core has been useful to me and other educators, and I agree that standardized testing can be important for tracking trends and noticing potential mismatches between curriculum and those standards.
But the standardized testing we have now is NOT being used for that purpose. Penalizing individual students is NOT an appropriate use, when the average income level of the school’s zip code is an accurate predictor of student scores. Neither is penalizing (or rewarding) teachers. That promotes one of the worst practices in education — assigning the least experienced teachers to the students who need the most help. Tests should not be used to penalize schools.
Just publicizing the scores is destructive. Two years ago there was a powerful opt-out movement among students and families at my school. (I sympathized, but didn’t participate.) Over 5% of my 8th grade students opted-out, and they were generally my strongest students. All of them were listed as having scores of zero. The students that did take the test were … less than motivated, as their friends took off each day during the testing week to play basketball, go to Starbucks, catch a movie, etc. Our math scores for those 8th graders were the lowest in the district. Families started leaving in droves, since it was obviously a ‘bad school’. This was, by the way, the same year that over 70% of our 8th graders successfully completed a rigorous Algebra 1 curriculum and received a high school credit for it, something that only the ‘Honors’ students in the district are typically eligible for.
My school now has a perilously low enrollment. If we don’t manage to recruit more students by next year, the city will shut us down.
Don’t even get me started on the fact that every year, EVERY YEAR, I have outstanding math students, ones who their peers turn to for help and rely on as team-mates for the most challenging problems, ones who ace my classroom assessments, mysteriously fail standardized tests on the same material. Somehow it’s always my black or Latinx scholars that experience this. This year I had to personally call high school guidance counselors for 5 students of color to get them the credit and placement they had worked hard, learned like crazy, and EARNED all year long, because of their low scores on a standardized test.
I am beyond frustrated.
Dave Sokola has got to go.