Letter to senators about excessive testing, 1.11.15

11 Jan

Senators:

I’m writing to you as the parent of a public student in the State of Florida. Thank you, in advance, for reading my letter and listening to my concerns.

I am extremely concerned about the excessive testing taking place within public schools in our state. I have been watching and studying this issue for several years now – reading articles in local and national news media, talking individually and in groups with teachers and parents and reading research on the consequences of excessive testing. I have learned that neither teachers, nor parents, nor administrators, nor most local school boards are happy with the testing being done in our state. School districts are, rightfully, taking public stands against this. Parents are speaking out all over the state. Teachers are speaking out privately because, sadly, they are made to fear for their jobs if they speak publicly against testing and other aspects of education reform.

More than half of the school year – and in some districts even more than that – is spent on tests or test preparation, to the detriment of actual learning. As a parent, I am not happy with this. Let me be clear – I am not against accountability or standards. In fact, I think we should have a high level of accountability and expectations for our schools and our children. I also think standards are a good thing, as they are in almost all professions. What I am against, however, is standards that were created and funded by corporations and politicians who have little to no experience running a classroom and no solid evidence about what it’s actually like to implement these standards. Veteran teachers (and others who have just as much educational training and experience as them) should be the only ones writing standards for our education system. Furthermore, any standards that are implemented should be done over a long period of time, giving our teachers ample time to become trained in them, as well as express any questions or concern they have. The implementation of the Common Core State Standards was done improperly within the State of Florida, with very little consideration to the impact on teachers and students.

As a Senator who is elected to represent our state, is this what you really want for our education system – for the hard working school administrators and educators who spend many, many hours training and working for the benefit of our children? Is this what you want for the innocent children who deserve a high quality, first class education and would be receiving that if it weren’t for the involvement of federal and state government officials, and corporations?

I keep hearing how the United States falls behind other countries in terms of test scores. I, for one, do not care how my child performs against children in other countries on a standardized test. Studies have shown that standardized tests do not adequately measure learning and achievement. As a parent, I care more how much my child learns creativity, innovation and problem solving skills – all of which cannot be measured on standardized tests. To that end, how do we even know how well the U.S. compares with other countries when all we are using to compare is standardized test scores that have little to no actual meaning or real-world application?

I want my child to be taught things that cannot be measured with a test. I want her to be taught by teachers who are not evaluated by test scores. Schools should not be run like businesses because children are not products to be bought and sold. Instruction should be individualized and personal, not standardized and formal. Teachers and schools should not be pitted against each other in the name of competition. On the contrary, they should be working together to share successes without fear that their scores or evaluations will suffer if another’s increase. Corporations and politicians should not be profiting from education, as is the case with many charter schools in our state. Decisions should not be made based on the bottom line. They should be made based on what is best for the children, which is not always the same thing that leads to a profit.

I have spoken with many leaders at the district and state level about this, and what I continue to see is passing the blame. School districts say the state has the power. The state says districts have the power. No one wants to step up and take responsibility and action to bring about positive change.

The best leaders are the ones who do the right thing for the good of the whole, and I am sincerely asking you to do that now. Stop the excessive testing. Use tests minimally, as diagnostic tools to guide learning, not to grade schools or evaluate teachers. Give all teachers a voice in the development and implementation of standards. Treat them as valued professionals. Do support charter schools that stand to make a profit off of our children. Do the right thing, for the betterment and future of our workforce and our state.

Thank you, again, for reading my concerns. I look forward to receiving your response.

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