Florida and Ohio Parents, Teachers Resisting Testing

standardized_testing

The fight against standardized testing in Florida and Ohio is growing as parents grow disillusioned with the volume of tests to which their children are subjected.

Dozens of people in Gainesville, Florida gathered at Westside Park to let their voices be heard about their stand against the testing, according to WCJB-TV. Teachers, parents, school board representatives and others shared their experience with standardized testing and discussed how to get rid of the most onerous requirements.

The name of the rally was “I Am More Than A Test” and the crowd grew to 200, writes Erin Jester of The Gainesville Sun. One parent, Kim Johnson, says her child learns differently than other students his age. Standardized tests do not account for these differences and her child may be a casualty of the system.

“The standardized testing completely undermines what we’re trying to do,” which is help him learn, Johnson said.

The president of the local teachers union, an education reform organizer, a parent, and several teachers took the stage to speak on their grievances with the present accountability plan. Those complaints included: too many tests; implementing educational standards that are too difficult  for the youngest students; developmentally inappropriate computer-based testing; students’ inability to receive counseling during the many weeks that counselors spend preparing testing materials; Florida’s $220 million contract with American Institutes for Research to develop assessments for the new standards; Florida’s use of test questions from the Utah test, in spite of the fact that Utah students did poorly on their assessments this year; and the fact that children are being faced with increasingly unrealistic expectations.

In order to assist parents and students in understanding the Florida Standards on which tests are based, Angela Walker has created a a program, the Explorer K-8 School, which was commissioned by the state Department of Education. Walker says:

“Our mission is to engage families in education. We want to give the families information about the Florida Standards, where they can find them online and point them to resources that give them learning activities that support achievement.”

She uses every prop, game, and treat she can, which she calls ‘edutainment,’ to show that the standards have three main goals that lead to college and career readiness: determination, destination, and dedication.

Ohio is seeing more resistance to state-ordered tests as well, reports WBNS-TV, as younger classes focus on meeting benchmarks such as passing the state’s mandatory third-grade reading test. The Westerville County Superintendent believes the number of tests and the preparation for them is having a negative effect on students and blames it on the legacy of No Child Left Behind.

Ohio Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-District 19) introduced a bill to limit state tests to four hours per year. It should have its first hearing November 5th, the same day a Statehouse rally is planned by parents.

Some Ohio parents have chosen the “opt out” solution. They pull their children out of class during testing for political reasons, because the tests take up so much class time, or because of the stress it causes their children. Mandy Jablonski says her fifth-grade son became so ill she had to take him to several doctors, only to discover her conscientious son was stressing out over the state tests. Vicky Brusky, who has taught and whose husband is a teacher, feels the same way.

“The principal told me that I would hurt the school, hurt the district and he pointed to the teachers and said, ‘Do you know how bad you will hurt the teachers if your son doesn’t take the test?’,” Brusky told the House committee as it heard testimony about the Common Core.

Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said there are ramifications for not taking the test.

“There are consequences for the child and the school,” Charlton said. For students, most of the state tests have no teeth beyond showing progress and helping parents see if the school is teaching anything.

Like other states who are part of the No Child Left Behind program, Ohio has a Third Grade Reading Guarantee.  If a child is not reading at a certain level, that child will remain in third grade. Not taking the test theoretically could mean that a child could stay in third grade forever. Ohio graduation requirements function similarly. End-of-course exams must be passed to graduate. Children who opt-out are counted toward the district’s value-added score, which is a measure of academic growth of the children.

Spokesperson for the Ohio Education Association Michele Prater said:

“The current over-use of student test results puts great emphasis on students to ‘score well’ on any assessment they take. The mere thought of taking a test provokes anxiety in some students. This becomes heightened when it’s time to take the test.  The disproportionate importance placed on doing well on tests makes many students, parents, teachers and administrators feel the pressure.”

Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, says the pressure on the teachers based on the test results is passed on to students whether the teachers try to hide it or not.