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Monday, September 30, 2013

The problem is the tests, not our kids.




It happened officially in New York State last spring, and is happening slowly, but surely in our own neck of the woods with Pennsylvania's Keystone exams. The Common Core State Standard aligned tests are not only an unreliable measure of our kid's knowledge (I blogged about the NY tests here.), but are altering the ways our schools are putting kids into remedial classes. Parents in high achieving school districts have had enough, and are seeing clearly that the problem is the testing, not their kids.


 One NY parent stated, "...My daughter was extremely upset, (starting high school) and having to take a remedial class. Shouldn’t it matter that she’s always been an A student?”


Yes. It should.


Never before have children been pulled out of their classrooms and put into remedial classes at the rates they are today. Students are usually left in the least restrictive environment unless their academic grades, along with other evidence, like teacher observations, parent observations, test data, and other anecdotal input from guidance counselors or school counselors indicates they need a more restrictive placement to meet their needs.





Due to the unreasonable, unfunded mandates of State & Federal Government on our schools, public schools are feeling pressured to schedule a large number of children, whose grades are good, in test prep type classes. Students are having to give up a high school elective or miss a regular course in elementary or middle school. Sadly, they are also internalizing the negative message that they aren't smart enough or good enough, and they think that is why they are in the "special" classes.





Corporate reformers claim that colleges have more students in remedial classes than ever. Has anyone correlated that to the 12+ years of No Child Left Behind and its forced, formulaic focus? Actually, professors have been pretty vocal these days on the topic.

Drexel professor, Scott Warnock, writes that "Standardized tests are destroying education."
He adds, "...for many of our children, writing will never be about exploration, discovery, art, or the challenge of learning complex technical skill. Instead, writing will be standardized, boxed-in, formulaic. It will be an obstacle they need to figure out strategies to get around."

Let's get back to the business of teaching kids without politicians and business models and get those rates down. If remediation is needed in college, let's offer it. I am happy to pay for the extra 3 credits, if indeed it turns out to be necessary...betcha it won't.

Superintendent Ken Mitchell, the new president of the superintendents group, said, "educators and parents have to start working together to express their serious reservations to the state."

“There are kids who are going to get the message that they are not as competent as they thought,” he said. “Eight-year-olds, 10-year-olds, middle-school kids, can be very vulnerable. And you will have children who were already struggling in school who now, in their own minds, have failed.”




 
 There is a public law, P.L. 94-142, that was written to prevent students with special needs and learning disabilities from being segregated in "special" classes, excluded from regular education courses, and instead, placed in the least restrictive environment possible. We must question if P.L. 94-142 is being upheld when special education students, along with regular education students are being forced to take these remedial classes.


Our children need us to speak up on their behalf. This testing trend/fiasco/sad chapter in education history will pass. Will we just let our children be pulled out, stigmatized, demoralized, and over-tested? Should the Keystone and other state exams drive the decisions our schools are making or should our children's needs?








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