Concerns with “Teaching to the Test” in Orlando

TesttakingstudentI attended a meeting at our elementary school this week that provided explanations of the state-mandated tests mentioned in this article on the Washington Post detailing the lament of a Florida school teacher with the amount of testing going on in our schools. I left the meeting with an understanding of why so many people are disgusted with the education system in our country and feel let down by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE).

This article from the Washington Post coincides with the information provided by our principal, and explains in greater detail, from a teacher’s perspective, how the tests are administered to students and the time requirements.

The state has devised “Florida’s Next Generation Strategic Plan” to test all K-12 students in every subject taught through End-of-Course (EOC) Assessments.

It sounds like a logical strategy – I like the idea of accountability and metrics to provide progress on individual and school learning achievements. The implementation, however, seems to lack a focus on benefits to students and instead looks to be more like more red tape for teachers.

For example, students must take an EOC Assessment even in P.E. The FLDOE website contains a link that P.E. teachers can use to pinpoint learning objectives for kindergartners : “recognize there are deep and shallow areas of a pool; identify personal and general space; strike an object forcefully using a modified, long-handled implement of various sizes, weights and compositions.” These are suggestions by the state, but not mandates, because teachers chosen by district officials are responsible for drafting county-wide EOC Assessments (our principal noted that one of her P.E. teachers was pulled from her classes and was tasked with drafting part of the P.E. exam).

I would hope P.E. gave my child the opportunity to be active outside, try new sports, and have some fun.

The time needed to complete these tests is another concern. As mentioned in the letter printed by the Washington Post, instructional time in the classroom is reduced to make room for the new tests. A report by News 13 stated that, “Seven weeks of school have been set aside for all grades 5 through 11 just for that [FSA] test, and some schools will have to take the field test which will take up three weeks in December.”

I am a new parent to the public education system. I greatly appreciate our nation’s commitment to provide a no-cost education to each citizen. But it seems the system is so far off course. If there was a means for me to contribute to the improvement of our schools, not just for my own child but school-wide, I would love to do so. This problem, like so often is the case, seems so big that there isn’t a clear answer. If there are action items for parents in addition to the usual (PTA involvement, volunteering at school, personal accountability for my own child) I would love to be directed.

Dan Rather Reports, “Teaching to the Test” Excerpt Video