Wednesday, June 29, 2016

State LDOE Proposing to Test Younger Students

Higher test scores are the only thing Superintendent White and his TFA assistants care about in the operation of Louisiana schools. Now they are apparently pushing standardized testing for kindergarteners as a way of preparing all students for college. A report by Assistant Superintendent, Jessica Baghian to the Accountability Commission seemed to imply that local school leaders want to extend standardized testing to grades K-2. Also, now the LDOE is admitting that the new Common Core standards have widened the achievement gap between middle class and poor students.   Remember when we were told that the new Common Core standards would help close the achievement gap? Another promise based on wishful thinking!

This recent article in Education Week describes the shortcomings of standardized testing. Recent trends show that even though we can expect a small improvement in state testing results as teachers become more familiar with teaching to the new Common Core related tests, student scores will soon plateau. Educators then begin spending inordinate efforts that result in only incremental improvements in successive years. Children just do not respond well to the constant test-prep school environment.

A few years ago, the decision was made to encourage almost all high school students to take college prep courses at the expense of vocational education. It did not work. Louisiana has the lowest number of students in the Southeast region completing 4 year college degrees. Then they maneuvered BESE into adopting the college prep Common Core standards. That's not working. Our students averaged 38% on the PARCC tests last year. Now the LDOE wants to push more testing and test prep to the K-3 grades. All that will do is to kill the joy of learning with boring high pressure test prep. None of this drill and kill strategy works. But the Accountability Commission is being told that if we just tighten the screws on students and teachers at the primary grades, then our students will finally become successful test takers. I'm not buying it.

Schooling should not be primarily about testing. Recent articles about the sacrifice of play activities for little children here and here have demonstrated that unstructured play for very young children is almost as important for proper development and socialization as structured classwork. Yet our so-called education leaders are reducing recess so kids can rehearse more for tests.

I've pointed out before that White is a one-trick-pony who believes that everything in the education of children is about raising test scores, yet after years of college prep and excessive emphasis on testing, our students are doing no better in college.

What about other priorities for our schools in developing well educated citizens? With all the emphasis on academic testing, kids are not being taught how to lead healthy and productive lives. Health problems of our high school graduates led by obesity are actually making about a third of our students insurance risks and therefore mostly unemployable, yet there is less emphasis on physical education and health.

My post below demonstrates that our graduates are no longer being taught the most basic life skills, yet we pretend to be preparing them for college.

Here is the problem with our younger students. Many children in high poverty homes have no books and few reading experiences in their homes. Many of these children are not stimulated to develop a rich vocabulary. Students from poverty start school with only half the vocabulary of more privileged students. Their primary teachers need to be able to spend time reading to their students from books for children that spark their interest in reading. Then the students will see themselves as readers and learners. To just start drilling kids with stacks of worksheets will turn them off to school and learning. Then no amount of testing and test prep will make them better students.