Is reducing testing enough???

Last week, President Obama made a video announcement decrying the use of over testing in our schools. He proclaimed that he has charged the USDOE to work aggressively with states and districts to make sure that testing policies meet three criteria: 1. Only give tests that are worth taking 2. Tests should enhance teaching and learning 3. Tests should only be one factor in giving an all-around look at how children are progressing.

These criteria should sound highly familiar since teachers have been saying this and more for several years now. Thanks to all your advocacy and the voices of parents and teachers across the nation, a shift is starting to be made.

Is this shift enough though? It’s a start. As long as we continue to place high stakes on these tests though, we are not going to see a change in the testing culture. As long as teachers are judged by test scores and districts are ranked by test scores, teaching and learning are going to be impacted in a negative way.

Furthermore, critical factors continued to be overlooked – especially factors attributed to poverty. Take a look at these poverty maps. These maps show how much poverty has spread our state from 2000-2012 – and the rates have continued to climb since then. Yet we still see education reform highly focused on everything BUT how we address the factors that are impeding our children’s progress.

We know that all children can learn. We also know that many children face issues that impede their progress – issues such as hunger, poor health, stress disorders, emotional and mental problems, drug problems, vision problems, dental decay, anger management issues. The list can go on and on. If these issues continue to be ignored, no amount of testing is going to change it. Even great teaching alone won’t have enough of an impact.

That is why we continue to push for a Community Learning Center model that focuses on bringing resources into the school and making them accessible to children and their families. We advocate for a model that includes parents, teachers, and community members in assessing what their children need and identifying who can best meet those needs. We push for a model that lifts up not only schools but whole communities.

We, as teachers, want the very best for every child that comes through our door. We desperately want to see this emphasis on testing and wrong accountability measures come to an end so that we can bring creativity and curiosity and joy into learning. We just as desperately though want to see that our children are viewed as more than a test result. That each one is looked at as a complex individual with needs that sometimes impact his or her ability to focus on learning. Only then will we really be able to see our children rise beyond what even they imagined.

For more information about the Community Learning Center model, please contact the OFT office at 614.258.3240.

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