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Another Voice: Testing...1...2...2

May 14, 2011

I am writing this primarily as a parent, but also as a teacher in Hood River. As a parent, I am becoming increasingly frustrated - and frankly, dismayed - at the preponderance of Oregon state academic testing in our public schools.

Basically, from mid-March through late May most of the resources in many Oregon schools are now devoted to administering a battery of state tests, and oftentimes retesting kids up to three times. That's right; kids are allowed three shots at the subject matter tests.

Moreover, even kids who pass the test are often encouraged to retake tests if they have not "shown enough growth" from a previous year. Schools are rated on both passing percentages, as well as yearly growth averages.

Kids are constantly being pulled out of classes to take tests. This not only makes it difficult for students to stay on top of current assignments, but oftentimes leaves half the class empty such that teachers really can't teach new material to the kids who are left in the classroom.

Computer labs are booked solid for weeks, making it extremely difficult to utilize computers for classroom assignments. Computers basically become testing portals.

Teacher aides, many of whom are specialists in working with kids with academic difficulties, are often called upon to proctor tests, which takes them away from their vital role within the classroom.

As a teacher I am essentially forced to play this game. Were I, or any other teacher, to take a stand and only test kids once, for example, we would then put ourselves, our school and school district at a distinct disadvantage when the state compares our results to those schools that utilize all three testing opportunities.

Basically, schools are using the tests to garner a favorable report card from the Oregon State Department of Education, rather than using a system of testing designed to illuminate both students and teachers to areas of academic strengths, and weaknesses, and retool instructional practices and curriculum accordingly.

The current system is not good educational practice; does not help teachers plan or improve relevant instruction; nor does it help students in any meaningful way.

Oregon state testing is completely out of control. It is a broken model. It has degraded into little more than a political shell game. Worse, the kids have become the pawns, much to the detriment of their educational opportunities.

Let me state that I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with administering standardized state tests to kids; nor do I take issue with being held accountable, and students being held accountable, for the results of such tests. As a parent, I have no issues with my children taking tests, and being held accountable for their performance.

Having said that, the Oregon Department of Education needs to do a much better job clearly defining the material the kids will be tested on, eliminate the multiple opportunity option and restrict the testing window to a few days near the end of the academic year. Clear goals, one shot, one brief time window - done.

If you have similar concerns, I hope you will join me in contacting the Oregon Department of Education.

Eric Cohn is a parent and teacher who lives in Hood River.

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