This past weekend, I enjoyed attending a program that brought together educators and community leaders from across NC to discuss the use of standardized tests in our public schools. We were fortunate to have Dr. Diane Ravitch, Founder and President of the Network for Public Education, to participate in this conference by video link. While she was instrumental in establishing the No Child Left Behind program, she came to realize how standardized testing has resulted in teachers here in NC and across the United States focusing their teaching and their attention to helping kids to achieve high scores on standardized tests as opposed to using tests or their equivalents to diagnose student performance. One statistic that I discovered this weekend was that here in NC, during a student’s time in elementary school, a student will spend the equivalent of a full school year testing and preparing for tests.
It’s important that each child’s potential should be assessed, and the student’s progress measured in a constructive means that provides feedback to students, teachers, and families. Historically, teachers have been able to use their own tests to evaluate student performance, however, today, many teachers no longer have that option. Since they must prepare their students only for the information on a standardized test as opposed to using other means to diagnose the strengths or weaknesses of a student to help that student reach his or her highest potential. In my opinion, we need to come up with alternative means to evaluate students and to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses. I would also like to see teachers assist students in developing analytical skills as well as skills that will help them to become writers. I’d much rather see students explain their thoughts in an essay or short answer question as opposed to simply choosing the best of 4 multiple choice answers. I’d like to thank Dr. Jen Mangrum, the NC Families for School Testing Reform, and the other groups that collaborated to host this informative conference.