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Are you aware of just how much your child is testing in school?

Are you under the impression that the only tests being administered to children are the “high stakes” tests from the state, such as the FSA or the State End of Course (EOC) exams?

Even our most informed parents are not always aware of exactly how much testing is going on in school today.

Although testing is only mandated by law for grades 3-10 in Florida, ALL grades are experiencing a serious loss of authentic instructional time as a result of excessive testing now. Most districts are testing K-2 as well – to get the kids used to testing, they say, or for “progress monitoring”. The fact is that testing of any kind now is increasingly becoming a high risk activity for our youngest children. Children who do not test well, even if they are otherwise a good student, are at risk or being flagged for intervention. Districts say this is a safety net to “catch” them early.

In reality, if a child is so identified, they are often made to sacrifice art, music, PE, or even recess, and are pulled for “intervention” aka “test prep” in order to make sure that our youngest children will do well on the standardized tests, which are used to evaluate teachers.  Some of these assessments may be iReady, AR (Accelerated Reader), Achieve 3000, IOWA, SAT10, MAP, SuccessMaker.

Districts are efficient in killing two birds with one stone by using one test to “monitor” children and to evaluate teachers.  The added bonus for teachers is that they are made to do this to themselves.

This letter is written by Jennifer Sabin, a parent and former teacher from Polk County. Jennifer taught Eighth Grade English Language Arts in Polk County and volunteers her time as an Administrator for the Opt Out Polk County group.

Jennifer writes:

When I first joined the ‪#‎optout‬ movement, I was concerned about my Third grader taking high stakes tests. I’ve slowly and shockingly come to realize that the testing culture that fuels the FSA has trickled down to Kindergarten. Why are our five and six year olds taking a test to prove they have a good teacher? Since when is it a student’s burden to prove the ability of the teacher?

To that end, I am also opting my kindergartner out of her Reading End of Year exams. This test is not part of my child’s grade and only exists for the district to use in abusing their power.

If I had paid attention sooner, I would have also opted both of my girls out of the Art, Music, and Physical Education EOYs too. This is the email I sent to Polk County Public Schools this afternoon, marking my disapproval with the unnecessary testing:

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“I just learned that my kindergarten student is going to be taking a Reading EOY (after already taking an EOY in Art, Music, and Physical Education). I am appalled at this. I did some digging and learned this is not a state requirement which makes me even angrier. Why is Polk County doing this?

My daughter’s teacher told me this test has no bearing on my daughter’s grade. To me, this means the sole purpose of this test is to evaluate her teacher. I have grave concerns about this approach to teacher evaluation and my daughter will not be taking the kindergarten EOY. I have zero confidence in the district’s ability to use the data from a test like this fairly. In fact, I have zero confidence in the test’s ability to even begin to speak to the success of a teacher.

There are dozens of reasons a kindergarten student might perform poorly on an EOY, the least of which is her teacher’s success. A bad morning, her shoes are uncomfortable, disagreement with a friend on the bus, etc… To base a significant portion of a teacher’s evaluation on a single test is unconscionable. This is true at every grade level. Staking a teacher’s career on the performance of a 5 or 6 year old child on a single test does not make any sense.

I understand that you already stopped the elementary Science and Social Studies EOYs and commend you for that. Now, I am asking you to immediately halt all EOYs for kindergarten, first, and second grade. These self-imposed requirements do not further the profession of teaching and more importantly, they do nothing to meet children’s education needs.”

This is a self-portrait my daughter drew for her art class this year.  Isn’t it a much better indicator of teacher competence than any silly test?

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Self-portrait of six-year old Mary

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