State misuse of testing is heart of the problem

The problems occurring with the wave of education reform in New York State is not to be found in the Common Core. The learning standards are a curriculum; they guide what is to be taught. No, the issues arise in the incessant testing that has been forced upon the school districts.

The State Education Department argues that the quantity of testing to measure student achievement in English Language Arts, mathematics and science has not increased. True, but disingenuous. Most of the new testing is to satisfy APPR requirements, the new system of evaluating teacher performance. It is for the sole purpose of evaluating the teachers, not the students.

Perhaps these tests can be used to guide instruction? Unfortunately, administered only once, twice or three times a year, they are useless for that purpose. Learning does not follow a simple, straight path. Rather, students are human beings, with all the vagaries of personality and mind, and as a result, learning is a bit more complex. Imagine having to captain a riverboat down the Mississippi knowing only the river’s depth and width and the beginning, middle and end points of the trip. It would not be possible. Trying to teach with the data from state standardized tests would be about as useful. Successful teachers monitor their students on a daily basis, not every three months. Again, these tests are grading teachers, not students.

And so we have multiple choice exams as final tests in gym and art classes. Do the Buffalo Bills and Sabres choose players based on a written exam? On top of this, more and more class time is devoted to taking exams, rather than teaching and learning.

It is New York State’s misuse of standardized testing, not the learning standards, that is the real problem.

Todd Mitchell