By Shirley Toaksh Verrico
I am a parent, college instructor and part of the local Refuse the NY State Tests movement. I am not, however, anti-test as many supporters of the Regents reform agenda claim. Over the past 15 years, I have written and administered hundreds of tests to thousands of students at area colleges.
My three children take tests written and administered by their teachers, who then use the test scores to inform their classroom instruction. My children refuse the state ELA and math exams because I believe the tests themselves are ill-conceived and the scores serve little purpose beyond fueling the propaganda machine of “reform” that labels New York’s students, teachers and schools as “failing.”
The Education Department test scores are meaningless because the testing format is fundamentally flawed. These are large-scale, standardized achievement tests that cannot accurately measure individual student knowledge or growth. Standardized achievement tests supply the evidence needed to make norm-referenced interpretations of students’ knowledge and/or skills in relationship to other groups of students.
Virtually every expert in the field of education agrees that standardized achievement tests should not be used to evaluate individual students or individual schools. Noted social scientist and educational testing expert W. James Popham and the University at Buffalo’s own Jaekyung Lee, dean of the Graduate School of Education, among others, have written and reported on the misuse of these test scores in the current “reform” movement.
Another problem with the tests is the lack of transparency. Neither parents nor educators are allowed to view the tests themselves, even after the tests have been graded and the data logged. Without the ability to review the tests in their entirety, teachers and parents have no assurance that the testing materials are accurate and appropriate.
Along with the security of the tests, reporting policies make it impossible for students, parents or teachers to “learn” from these tests. Student scores are not reported until the late summer or early fall, after most students have moved on to the next grade. Although parents and teachers receive score reports, neither report is specific enough to inform instruction. Without seeing both the test questions and the student’s answers, teachers and parents have no way to meaningfully evaluate an individual child’s “deficiency” and thus develop an appropriate plan for improvement.
It is time for the citizens of our state to listen to the education and testing experts rather than the corporations who hope to profit from this high-stakes testing business.
Shirley Toaksh Verrico is an adjunct instructor of humanities in Medaille College’s School of Adult and Graduate Education.