It’s that time of year again – the wonderful world of standardized assessments and tests. If it seems like we have more and more assessments each year, your perceptions are probably fairly accurate. It seems that the age of accountability has entered a new dimension. I’ve been asked several questions of late regarding state assessments and the new PARCC tests. Here are some simple answers to common questions.
Do you think we over test our students?
Yes, yes and yes. One of my biggest frustrations as a public school educator is the over-reliance on state assessments as an evaluation of student performance. We have reached a point, at some grade levels, where it seems we are testing more than we are teaching. Our teachers are amazing at creating learning experiences, at crafting opportunities for our young people to learn. The myriad of tests literally takes learning opportunities away from our students.
This school year, in addition to the current state assessments, many districts in Ohio (Hilliard included) are field-testing the new PARCC Assessments. These are what the Ohio Department of Education calls “the next generation assessments” and will be taken on computers by our students. So, for some, this is double testing. Furthermore the new state mandated Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) has created the need for additional measurers for teacher evaluation purposes … potentially more tests.
In my State of the Schools address in October I shared our plan to create a local Quality Profile; Hilliard will create its own report to the community about our performance. We must find a better way to share with you, our community, our progress and performance. I believe in local control; I believe that the greater Hilliard community knows what is best for our young people. I believe our moms and dads, Board of Education and professional educators can set a higher bar than a one-size-fits-all state or federal mandate.
How do you feel about accountability?
I am not at all opposed to assessments and/or accountability. I just believe we need to measure the right things, for the right reasons and within a reasonable timeline. I believe all assessments should drive future instruction – both at the student and teacher level. We need immediate feedback; teachers need to know how students are performing in order to seek continuous improvement.
Our Scholastic Reading and math assessments provide teachers and students with timely results. This is very different from the Ohio Achievement Assessments and even the new PARCC exams. Even with the new state assessments being conducted online, it seems it will take months to get the results back.
We must also consider several time honored, well-established assessments. The ACT and SAT provide information on how our students perform in comparison to students at the state and national level. Accountability is important … over-testing students is counterintuitive to preparing students for tomorrow.
What’s the assessment future look like for Hilliard Schools?
First of all, at the current time the state report card is the only public measure of district performance. We must create a document that shares our successes, identifies areas we need to improve and communicates with our public. Furthermore, we believe that by personalizing instruction, by educating each student where he or she is at the current moment, by embracing our diversity, by empowering choice of instructional opportunities and by inspiring each student to dream about a brighter tomorrow that our assessment results will naturally improve. Great education can’t be forced; great instructional opportunities are organic … they happen naturally. In order to live our mission, to prepare students for tomorrow, we can’t simply be about state assessments. Our students won’t get jobs because of state assessment results and tomorrows future leaders won’t develop necessary skills by memorizing static information. We must inspire and encourage lifelong learners. We must instill optimism and persistence in our young people; we must educate the whole child. We are cultivating people, not test taking machines.
What should I do to make sure my child is prepared for tests this year?
We always want our young people to eat a good breakfast, to get a solid night’s sleep and to come to school ready to learn. During our state assessments we don’t expect anything different. This year the assessments are a little later than normal due to the severe winter; this gives us some additional time for classroom instruction. It is important that children get outside and play, participate in spring sports and enjoy their youth. Let’s agree to not put additional stress on our students due to assessments. I am confident our students are prepared – they should simply do their best each and every day.