What Would Happen Without Annual Testing?
I have a very personal connection to annual testing.
When my daughter began elementary school, I decided to enroll her in a school with ethnic and economic diversity. I didn’t want her to be the only little, black girl in her class, but I also didn’t want to sacrifice academic rigor. To find the best school for her, I pored over annual test scores and demographic information of nearby schools, and I could see that the students — largely black and brown kids — at one school in particular were performing well when compared with their more affluent peers. I could also see the school’s feeder patterns into high schools were promising. It made me feel confident about sending my child there. So, armed with that information, I handed over my little one.
Things went well until I discovered a troubling trend in the sixth grade. Sixth-graders were beginning to slip in the math portion of the annual assessment. By seventh grade, they were performing really badly, and the eighth-graders had fallen behind. I (and several other parents) approached the principal to discuss reversing this pattern, and it resulted in extra academic support for students and an instructional change — all of which culminated in an improvement in scores the following year.
I can’t imagine not having had access to test scores every year — not being able to see what was happening before and after my child’s grade. And I can’t imagine any other parent being denied this critical data. But that’s exactly what would happen under legislation proposed yesterday by Reps. Chris Gibson, (R-N.Y.), and Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Ariz.). Their bill calls for replacing annual, statewide assessments with grade-span tests.
Grade-span testing would only be administered each year to a single grade of students within elementary, middle, and high school. This means that only third-graders, for example, would be tested in an elementary school in any given year — or in middle school, only the seventh-graders, and so forth. This provides no information to parents or educators about growth overall or about student progress in the grade levels that aren’t tested that year. It only provides part of the picture, and educators and parents will have to wait years to get another comparable snapshot. Why on earth would anyone want to keep parents in the dark about the academic achievement of their children and their children’s school? Whose interests are served? Certainly not the students’ or parents’.
Parents don’t have years to spend guessing about their children’s progress, and we know better than to assume an “A” in school means academic preparedness. Too many black and brown valedictorians have ended up in remedial education in college or worse. We want the best for our children. To ensure they have access to all the opportunities that await them, we want data — and we want it every year.