What is your stance on the amount of standardized testing and is there any action you would take on that?
That’s something that always comes up and I’m pleased to say that the administration here from the superintendent on down, recognizes that there may be too much testing. And maybe we should consolidate the testing. I’m in full support of that initiative. Having said that, again, even though we do have some local control, there’s a lot of state requirements. And that kind of… it doesn’t help, let’s put it that way. But as a general policy, as a general philosophy, I believe some of these tests can and should be consolidated. And one of the things we hear as board members, and again it’s a totally valid concern, I totally understand it and in a lot of ways agree with it, is if you have too many tests, teachers end up teaching the test versus focusing on learning. Tests are a metric to measure learning, but it’s not learning. And so that’s a long way to say the board as a body has encouraged and directed administration to try to reduce that amount of testing.
We have a lot of demands on a school district from outside sources. How do we meet those demands? And by demands, I mean all of the compliance requirements at the state. There is legislation currently being discussed that’s tied to performance on standardized tests. College acceptability and college scholarships are tied to success on standardized tests. Those are all things that are tied to what we need to accomplish. So what my response is, is how can we juggle all of those needs and come to a resolution that’s really in the best interest of our students? And I think it’s really difficult to do, it’s difficult to wrap your arms around. And until you’ve sat in hours and hours of curriculum meetings and read hours and hours of articles, it’s kind of difficult to see how huge that task is. I do believe that the seven school board members currently sitting are working diligently to reconcile all of those concerns.
I would like to see much less. Currently there’s standardized testing I believe from [grades] three to eight, maybe beyond. In the past it was something like four and eight. Some people prefer that. There’s a lot of push back on the assessments in other states. And some are proposing the return to the four and eight type of thing, where you have a couple of tests throughout the eighth grade experience. Some people would like to eliminate them all together.
After all, they don’t really directly, as far as I can tell, help the student. They provide data to the state, and data to the federal government, and any feedback is long after the tests have actually been taken. When I was teaching, we administered the Iowa Basic Skills Test. And we could score that test ourselves. And we could then see where the students were strong or weak. And we could report that to the parents. You can’t do that with these tests, these assessments that are out there today.
So the purpose of the testing isn’t to directly help the student, but to help the state and the federal government measure the accountability of the district. So we’re subjecting these children to a lot of time spent on testing and a lot of time not spent on learning, for somebody else’s goals. So I’m opposed to the assessments and I would take any reduction that we could achieve.
– Interviews and transcriptions by Alyssa Birkeland, Current Staff
Read more about Vinney Pheng, Monte Schmiege, and Therese Sizer at The Current, including their full responses regarding Common Core and tension at WBHS.
The school board election is Tuesday, April 7.