What the PA Testing Machine Fails to Consider

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When I first caught word that Pennsylvania is in the midst of manufacturing massive test failures on the state assessment, I should have been surprised—  I wasn’t.   What came to mind was what this would mean to my students, their parents and our community.  The very thing that the state forgot to consider in the first place was the implication that the decisions they made would have on the very people they are supposed to serve.

Many of us in the educational community know that these tests are not a true measure of a student’s ability.  The test doesn’t measure the various types of learning that take place in the classroom.  It doesn’t measure the immeasurable but equally important learning that takes place in the classroom— the social and emotional growth of a student.  In fact, the test doesn’t measure growth at all.

Parents and other stakeholders use these scores to determine a school’s ability to educate the children they are there to serve.  I have been in more than one meeting with parents that were a direct result of the scores that their children received on the state tests.  Some are thrown into an outright panic when they receive word that their son or daughter is not proficient—  rightfully so.  Parents want to see their children succeed and have opportunities that they themselves may never have had.  What happens when more parents than ever receive a report that says that their children have found their way into the basic or below basic category?  What happens to the mindset of a child who has worked harder than ever, but finds themselves further behind than before?  Will the schools be to blame or will parents look to other outlets to place their blame?  I am uncertain of the answer to these questions. I am also uncertain why the situation has been created where these questions need to be asked in the first place.  We can articulate that these tests are only one measure of performance, but we cannot remove ourselves from the reality of the established culture— the culture that says: “These tests matter.”

I cannot help but think that the testing system is a farce.  One thing that has been revealed is that no matter how well students do, no matter how hard they work, there will always be some who are not considered proficient.  This is because the benchmarks for the tiered system (advanced, proficient, basic and below basic) aren’t set until after the tests are administered and scored.  In this way, the state allows politics and money seep into a system that should be fair in assessing the achievement of our children.   Maybe it’s time that we take a deeper look into a system that many trust to be fair.  This is the same system that is used to make many important decisions that impact the education of our children.  Maybe it’s time that we speak up and demand not only a testing system, but an educational system that’s designed with our kids in mind.  After all, they are the ones that we are trying to educate.  They are the ones upon which their future and our country’s future depend.  It’s due time that we demand an educational system that values those that it serves.

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For more information on this topic please read the following article:

PA Manufactures Massive Test Failure by Peter Greene


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