Tennessee Testing Practices Cause a Stir

The argument over standardized testing is raging in Tennessee as students, parents, and teachers are complaining about the rigorous testing standards and the stress and anxiety that they inflict, reports Joey Garrison for The Tennessean.

The school board for Metropolitan Nashville Public schools is looking into setting a resolution that asks for a limit on “high-stakes testing.” If passed , it would put the board of education in the middle of a rising national argument over the sheer amount of standardized tests required in public school education, how effective they are and how much they take away from actual classroom time spent learning.

By asking the legislature to sever the bond between instructor evaluations, their wages and learning gains of pupils, the school board is looking into another section of the testing debate.  Effectively, this suggests a request to take apart the core of Tennessee’s much-debated testing program by stopping the application of test scores devised from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System.

A retired instructor of 30 years and an exam opponent, Nashville school board member Jill Speering has presented a non-binding solution to “return the emphasis of education to quality teaching and authentic learning,” writes Garrison.

The resolution would aim to ease up the rigorous testing standards by decreasing the amount of district-mandated exams, the time it takes to prepare for them, costs involved in testing, and limiting activities that have to do with the  “high-stakes testing” like pep rallies.

Also, the resolution requests that the school districts give parents a calendar of state and district-mandated standardized exams, reports Garrison. This calendar should include practice or predictive tests and should be sent out each year during the first full week of school.  A new Tennessee law will demand a similar rule.

In addition, the resolution requested a change the rules of giving high-stakes tests to English as a second language learners who have resided in this nation for under one year, says Garrison. Lastly, it suggests the investigation of school accountability systems that are used to view student achievement and create a better outlet that is  based upon several forms of testing, not just state exams.

The TCAP accounts for 20% of a student’s end of semester grade, writes Blake Farmer for WPLN. That’s enough to put many students on edge. However, some teachers and officials believe the students receive more than enough preparation for the state mandated tests.

“We have been preparing for a long time,” says Katie Gerding, a seventh grade math teacher at LEAD Academy Middle School. “We teach them test strategies, so how to relax before, how to get a good night’s sleep, have a good breakfast and just take deep breaths to calm any kind of anxiety they do have.”