Fund Our Future: Professional educators know that the key to unlocking each student’s full potential is time dedicated to instruction, learning and formative assessments. Time and resources wasted on high-stakes testing rob students of the opportunity to succeed.
One common refrain heard from Tallahassee politicians with regards to education is that they want increased attention paid to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mechanics (STEM), and career and technical education. These same politicians talk about the need for more civics education and the importance of music and the arts.
Professional educators in Florida’s schools would like to see the very same things.
If policy makers and educators both want more time devoted to teaching, why isn’t it actually happening?
The answer is simple: the policy makers words do not match their actions.
In the past two decades there has been a state-mandated explosion in the amount and scope of standardized testing. The over-reliance on the results of a single state test is the foundation for the entire shame-and-blame program: a bogus school grading system, the use of the faulty-VAM in teacher evaluations and flaky bonus schemes.
Even worse is the direct impact this has on schools and students.
Out-of-control testing in Florida cheats our students of valuable instruction time. Libraries are often closed for weeks at a time so they can serve as testing labs. Non-classroom professionals such as guidance counselors and school psychologists are pulled from their duties to proctor testing. School schedules are disrupted for months on end.
Teachers and other school staff professionals need flexibility to use everyday assessment of their students’ work to guide their pacing and instruction without the monumental loss of time for tests and testing administration. Time and resources spent on testing and test preparation are better used to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
On top of all that, these standardized tests do very little, if anything, to actually help improve student performance. Because the test results are not available for months after the test is taken, they cannot be used to guide instruction or provide timely feedback to students.
Instead of high-stakes testing we should depend on useful everyday assessment of student classwork. This allows teachers to better meet the needs of their students by providing immediate feedback and making real-time adjustment to instructional tactics.
So, while legislators love to talk about the need for increased instructional time, the laws they pass mandate something very different. One look at the statewide testing calendar makes it very clear, Florida’s legislators love standardized tests. They created the very problem they claim they want to solve
In fact, legislators love standardized tests so much, they think teachers should be receive annual bonuses based on how well they performed on standardized tests the teachers took when they were in high school.
Legislators’ obsession with standardized testing is harming our students and plays a significant role in the growing crisis of teacher shortages. We need their words to match their deeds. Testing should be used to inform teaching practices, not to impede teaching.
In order for that to happen, there must be a significant reduction in size and scope of high-stakes standardized testing. And when such tests do occur, the results must be provided in a quick yet thorough manner so the tests can be used to guide instruction.