By Lauren Ormsby
As the New York State Common Core assessments get under way, I have noticed that the anti-testing hysteria seems to be ramping up. Many opponents of testing speak as if testing is an entirely new concept in education. While many of us know this to be untrue, others are lured into the debate by memes of children with their head in their hands with a caption that says, “Childhood happens only once.”
Humans have taken tests for hundreds of years. Civil service testing dates back to 1883. As a superintendent, I had to pass more than 10 certification exams. I had to take three standardized tests just to be accepted into college. The ability to take tests is essential, and as a mother, I want my children to master this skill. I want them to learn how to manage stress and identify the strategies that will help them to succeed.
As parents, we want to protect our children from discomfort, but ultimately it is our job to prepare them to be successful in life. By creating a culture where tests are harmful enemies, we may raise children who may not only fear tests, but may lack the necessary skills and strategies to demonstrate their full potential to future employers and admissions offices. Additionally, tests can help us as educators identify areas we are doing well in, and areas that need our focus, for individual students, teachers and schools.
The Common Core Standards represent rigorous expectations of what a child is expected to learn, providing additional data about a child’s learning. As a parent, I want to understand how my children are progressing in reaching these standards. Similar to the annual “well-child” check, the state assessments provide an annual look at the academic health of my children.
Opponents will say that we do not get enough information back to make it useful, however, I would disagree. In my opinion the 1-4 rating provided by the state is enough, considering the test, similar to the well-child visit, is based on one date in time. Considering we accept a “thumbs-up” from our family practitioner, it would seem a rating scale is sufficient. This information combined with formative assessments received throughout the school year help to develop a picture of my children’s academic performance.
The largest concern I have with test-refusal is the message sent to children when directing them to, “refuse the test” or “opt-out.” In asking a child to refuse a test, we send a negative message to children about their education and lose an opportunity to help develop skills that will support future success.
As a parent and principal, this is a good thing; we need to know how our students and teachers are doing. In the whirlwind of media reports, we need to hear more from the classrooms and schools living the work.
Lauren Ormsby, Ph.D., is superintendent and Pre-K to 6 principal of Ripley Central School.