As school systems across the nation step closer to a curriculum centered around standardized testing and move further away from other aspects of education, such as the arts, some school officials are beginning to wonder if the pressure comes at too high of a cost.
During the Aug. 10 school board meeting, Tony Tridico and Kathy Adelman gave a presentation to the board about the success of the physical education and Title I integration program. The program incorporates play and physical activity with reading at the elementary level, in order to ensure that young children are prepared for standardized tests, while also teaching them necessary motor skills and allowing them to play and be kids.
After a week of allowing this message to sink in, school board member Bruce Peterson addressed the board about the toll standardized tests have begun to take on students of all ages.
“I want to tell you, people are angry in the state of Pennsylvania, administrators, teachers — everybody,” Peterson said.
According to Peterson, not only are students feeling the pressure to pass standardized tests, administrators and teachers are also feeling the heat.
Instead of spending a few weeks preparing for PSSAs and the like, teachers, administrators and students are now giving up the majority of their year to prepare for testing. In addition to giving up more of their time, students and faculty are also forced to give up other parts of their curriculum.
To spend an entire year preparing for a test, and feeling the pressure to achieve a certain score, does not sit well with Peterson, and he is not alone.
“An article came out in the New York Times, it actually was the 12th of August, that in New York state, 20 percent of the parents in New York state opted out of testing. That’s a lot,” Peterson said.
In addition, Peterson said that while this shows a clear amount of frustration with standardized testing, it creates a dilemma for schools, who are mandated by federal law to have 95 percent of students pass standardized tests.
Peterson used a quote by noted educator Don Bell to further make his point, stating that academic success for students and faculty is not defined by “a one size fits all PSSA test.”
Peterson took the time to pull quotes and testimonies from various educators across the state, including those involved with the Pennsylvania School Board Association, who claim that research has shown that high stakes testing doesn’t work.
One particular group, from Lehigh County, approached the PSBA to stop using the Keystone exams as a graduation requirement, and urged other schools to do the same.
In their statement to the PSBA, high stakes testing causes more stress, increases inequality and increases dropout rates.
Peterson went on to quote school officials from across the state, some going as far as to say the Pennsylvania Department of Education was “sucking the motivation out of our schools.”
“We used to pull that a couple weeks before, you were getting ready for the test, but now it’s all year, so you are giving up a lot of the curriculum,” said Lynn Cressman, a school board member and retired Titusville teacher.
Several members of the board were in agreement that standardized testing was not helping to make students any smarter, and was not an accurate depiction of how successful students are.
TASD Superintendent Karen Jez said, “What we need to do is contact [U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson], from our state, he’s on the education committee at the national level; he is pushing for moderation. He is pushing for maybe not the total elimination of testing, but to alter these standardized testings and the weight that they carry in the state.”
Jez said that she would do some research on the subject so that she, as well as the rest of the board, may be able to come to a resolution.
Peterson said, “We’ve got to start pushing back.”