Judge Gievers upheld the Opt-Out parents complaint against districts who denied promotion to children who signed in to take the Florida Standards Assessment this spring. She did not, however, require districts to promote those children without completing a portfolio to demonstrate their proficiency. Some parents withdrew their children from school. Some used a portfolio option. The problem for at least one parent is that the portfolio option required scores on other tests to be included. Since the entire promotion process is under review in the appeals court, Judge Gievers has decided that the courts need time to ponder. Maybe she is correct. Let’s consider the implications of her decision.
Judge Gievers’ ruling implies there is a larger question with her ruling. Are children to be exempt from any testing? Any standardized testing, any high stakes testing? Any classroom testing?
What is the appropriate use of assessments in our schools? This is a fundamental issue in the learning process. An 2003 article in Education Leadership recognized the problem early on in the educational reform movement. The author states that “teachers who develop useful assessments, provide corrective instruction, and give students second chances to demonstrate success, can improve instruction and help students learn.”
With district-wide end of course exams now being used, one wonders how is a classroom test defined? Any test has consequences.
Large scale testing with significant consequences to teachers, schools, and students, are not about helping teachers teach or students learn in part because they are administered at the end of the year. They are however, a bit like a thermometer. They indicate whether or not there might be a problem. It is no surprise that achievement levels within districts or states or even across the nation differ. Knowing how much these differences are requires a standardized achievement measure.
If you do not know there is a problem, how can you fix it?
Having students take a standardized test once in awhile is not a significant problem. How often children must take tests with high stakes consequences is an entirely different matter. Instead of improving teachers, they may drive teachers out of the profession. Instead of helping students, they label them. Instead of improving schools, they impact property values, increase racial and economic segregation, and discourage teachers from working in ‘failing’ schools. Using test scores to drive reform can, as current experience shows, has created more problems than it has solved. Those who strongly advocate for annual high stakes testing might consider the old adage: Too much of a good thing—is bad!