Not your Mama’s Testing

I’m going to rant a little, but its important. If you are a parent or community member with any interest or connections to public schools, you need to watch this video. John Oliver hits the nail on the head about testing.

I remember  IOWA Test in school. We took it. My mom got the scores in the summer. We looked at them. Talked about them. I remember always being excited to see what percentile I scored in.  I even remember trying to figure out what the 91st percentile meant and how it was different that getting 91% correct.  (I was kind of a math person even then….)  After that, mom stuck the scores in the filing cabinet and we went on having a fun summer.

I am blessed and thankful that my teachers taught me to love learning and love school.

But, testing in schools today is not what you remember as a student.  It is an entire paradigm shift away from what it used to be.

My 7th grade math teacher​ worked with me, my parents, and other teachers to decide that I needed to be in Algebra 1 in 8th grade. She used my scores in her class, conversations with me.  Previous grades from other math classes, and maybe a glance at those IOWA scores in my school file.  But, she didn’t need 5 benchmarks and a standardized test to know that I would be good at Algebra 1.

My high school counselors didn’t need a series of 12 years of benchmarks and end of years tests (students take an average of 113 non-teacher made, standardized tests in their preK-12 career) to encourage me to take AP courses in High School or to consider taking the community service class my senior year where I went to a local elementary school every day, during school hours, to tutor.   They spent their time getting to know students and counseling them, not instead of spending their time creating elaborate testing schedules or making last minute changes at the whim or mistakes of testing companies.

I was heartsick yesterday when my 6 year old, in a conversation about how kids and parents have things in common, said “I am like you because we both like to play with legos, but I am not like you because you love school and I hate it….”  Don’t misunderstand me.  Her teacher is great.  The school is welcoming and friendly.  She has learned a ton this year and is progressing right on track.  But she feels it already.  That school is about “doing papers all day” not about learning and having fun.  She already knows and can talk about the difference between “school math” and “fun math” that we do at home.  She is not going to be a typical student.  She is an active, dramatic, hand-on learner, which doesn’t always fit in a test focused classroom so many have become.

Testing is out of control. It is tainting the entire schooling process.  It is based on flawed premises about schools failing and faulty research about testing and learning.  Pearson is making billions of dollars on our schools and students.  Many schools, even well intentioned and high performing ones, have become pressure cookers.

Be informed. Contact your legislators. Share your stories. Something’s gotta give.

As a parent and as a teacher, I am huge proponent of public education.  I always have been.  Parent groups like Oklahoma Central PLAC​ and Cleveland County PLAC​ have been created in the last few years and are working hard with legislators to help change the face of public education. I will continue to do what I can to support my local schools and the state of education in Oklahoma.  All students deserve the best.

But, sadly and honestly, I have to admit that if things don’t change and if I had the means and resources, I would pull my daughter out in a heartbeat and put her in a school that doesn’t have to be accountable to testing.  Not because I am against accountability, but because testing today is not your Mama’s testing.  It truly has become a Testing Beast.