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My letter to the Education Committees and Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Publication Date: 2013-05-01

This is from Fourth Generation Teacher blog, April 30, 2013. She makes an important point: Let's stop blaming Pearson & McGraw-Hill. . . it's the high-stakes testing culture.

Due to a glitch at McGraw-Hill, Oklahoma students were kicked out of the test two days in a row.

I agree that it's easy to focus blame on McGraw-Hill when what state ed should do is look in the mirror. But teachers need to look in that mirror, too. Why are teachers so obedient?

Here's a summary of what happened: Technology fails again for students taking Oklahoma state tests

by Fourth Generation Teacher

My letter to the Education Committees and Superintendent Barresi, who is outraged... just outraged. So are we.

It's not Pearson; it's not McGraw Hill. It's the high-stakes testing culture. It's not our kids; it's not our teachers. It's the culture -- and I hold you responsible for the culture of high-states testing.

We have been putting more and more emphasis on standardized tests, stretching their purpose out of recognition. Standardized tests are designed to be a snapshot in time -- one piece of assessment information about our students. That's all. But now third graders will soon be flunked on the basis of tests, teachers will be evaluated, schools graded. Already we are denying high school diplomas...all on tests that were not designed for these purposes.

To believe that standardized tests are objective is to believe in the Tooth Fairy. Human judgement frames the questions, chooses the distractors, writes the 'correct' answer. Human judgement chooses the passages and the prompts. Human judgement then scores open-ended questions and sets 'cut' scores. There is nothing remotely objective about standardized tests.

To believe that spending millions of the state's money in contracts with out-of-state testing companies, no matter who they are, is a wise use of limited funds is naive and mistaken. With tax cuts being pushed by our leaders, there will be less and less money for schools...but can I expect the testing budget to be cut?

To believe we can cynically throw the blame and our outrage on these companies denies our culpability. Who contracted with these companies? Who passed the laws to abuse standardized tests for their own purposes? Who worships at the foot of the almighty test? Before you blame the corporations who can't deliver on your test-culture mission, look in the mirror.

Then, come to a school where students sat at their computers, ready to take tests. Apprehensive, yes, but confident and ready. Come to a school and watch the computers lock and freeze. Watch kids sit, as some did, for hours, waiting for their screens to come back. Come and tell these kids they won't graduate because of the test score...tell them they'll spend another year in third grade.

Outraged? Yes I am; but my outrage is focused on policymakers who cynically colluded with for-profit corporations to twist and subvert the purpose of assessment, to funnel millions of dollars out of our state, to force accountability on everyone but themselves.

Continuing to abuse the purpose of standardized tests will bring more outrage -- outrage you can't deflect.

Let's start some accountability at the top.

What will you answer to children and their parents and teachers who are living this nightmare of your making?

Hoping for an uneventful day of more testing tomorrow...

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