The following is my prepared statement, which was read to the Alachua County Legislative Delegation in December, 2018:
Hello. My name is Megan Hendricks, Alachua County public school parent and proud graduate of Hawthorne High School and the University of Florida.
I’m here today to talk about the impact of test-based accountability on our schools and our community.
Florida’s public schools are under attack. The focus seems to be on accountability, with the primary measurement being standardized tests (namely, the FSA).
There is an assumption that these tests are accurate measurements of student learning, teacher effectiveness and overall school quality. Research and real world experience has challenged those assumptions. Studies have shown that standardized tests do not translate into long-term learning gains or better cognition. I have provided you with more information about that in your packets.
The impact of Florida’s test-based accountability system is profound.
- Families are making decisions about where to send their children to school, or even where to purchase a home, based on school grades – which use a formula almost entirely based on test scores.
- College readiness has been shown to decrease when emphasis is placed on test scores.
- The teacher shortage in our state is reaching crisis levels. In 2011/2012 in Alachua County, there were 3,440 applications for teaching positions. In 2017/2018, there were 584. This isn’t an Alachua County issue. In August, 2018, there were 4,000 vacancies statewide, which is up from 3,000 the same time last year. This is equal to 1.4 million students without a teacher for one or more of their classes.
- Billions of dollars of funding have been funneled into the creation and evaluation of tests that could have been used to provide much-needed resources to help children succeed.
- Children are spending an inordinate amount of time taking tests and preparing for tests that they could be spending on authentic learning.
- Schools are being threatened with closure based on test scores. My own high school was at risk of closure this past year. As the largest employer in the city, closing this school would have not only impacted the school, but dismantled the community. I’ve visited Terwilliger Elementary recently, which is currently at risk of closure or turnover because of test scores, and talked with their staff and parents. Schools like Terwilliger need more resources and support from our state, not closure threats and scrutiny of their teachers.
- The stress created by high stakes testing is effecting our children’s mental health. A recent study even showed that the stress associated with tests has a disproportionate effect on children of poverty.
At the end of the day, we have to decide what’s most important. Do we keep up the philosophy of “If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist?” Or, do we look at what really matters for our children, our teachers, and our schools.