LETTER:

In the past when standardized tests became more prominent, educators and test researchers urged that they should be used as one tool for student assessment, never as the only tool. High-stakes tests and accountability, using only ‘data-sets’, has become an unprecedented intrusion into public education that ignores a fundamental educational principle–student assessment should be broad in scope, including both academics and experiences that cannot be measured comparatively.

The entire Common Core Initiative does not value the intangibles that make up varied opportunities for youth. Contrary to a generally held assumption standard tests do not predict well, either college success or successful achievement for people later in life.

Many view the tests as a joke, measuring nothing but a disjointed array of factoids. A second negative is that students disadvantaged by poverty and lack of opportunities, and some ethnic students do not achieve well on the tests. A third factor is that in Louisiana it typically takes eight months to learn the results of tests. This lack of timely feedback is a disservice to students, parents and teachers because students have moved on to another grade level and a new teacher. Frankly, this can be viewed as a waste of time and money.

This is simply indicative of the influence of the corporate/business model of bottom line management and is completely unacceptable in public schools. Sadly, state legislators who approve such mandates are usually not around to have to live with the consequences of their actions. It is the student, their parents and school communities who suffer the educational trauma under this unsound methodology.

Across America, parents, teachers and educators are pushing back because of these heavy-handed rules by governments. Movements to opt-out of the tests, headlined by 200,000 in New York State, are gaining momentum. There is continued increase in both homeschooling and private schools, and a return by some public schools to teaching ‘classical education’ in place of Common Core. Because of strict rules, wealthier parents, as they did with public schools, are withdrawing their children from private schools and using tutors or homeschooling. Colleges, with the total approaching one thousand, are either dropping standard tests as part of their admission criteria, or are using them on an optional basis. They are resorting to more comprehensive criteria, recognizing that the predictability of these tests has become suspect.

The latest encroachment of government rules is reflected in the benchmarks and standardized testing that’s been established for early childhood education (pre-K and kindergarten). Common Core standards require all kindergartners to read and our own LA DOE has established benchmarks for those ages. This has been done over the stern objections of both parents and many childhood educators, who highlight the potential harm developmentally inappropriate benchmarks may cause.

Education advocates and researchers of these early ages point out there is no evidence to support the widespread belief that children must read in kindergarten to become competent readers later. Benchmarks violate the individual variability in children–each child has a personal pace for learning that must be honored.

If stability is to return to school communities, the era of high-stakes testing must end!

Jim Simmons, Shreveport, Louisiana
(Retired Associate Professor, NW State University of Louisiana)