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This statement appeared on the blog of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition. I gladly add Tom Dunn to the honor roll for speaking out when the state is going in the wrong direction.
Another superintendent distressed by Ohio’s testing rage
Tom Dunn’s column in the February 22 The Troy Daily News should be requires reading for state officials.
How much of a bad thing is a good thing?
by Tom Dunn
I have long contended that there hasn’t been an intelligent discussion held about public education in the Ohio legislature in years, and I have written more than fifty articles highlighting the many indefensible mandates lawmakers have enacted proving that to be true.
The recent hearings held by the Senate Education Committee on whether or not schools are testing their students too much (we are) and what to do about it is a perfect illustration of just how worthless political dialogue is. If their discussions weren’t so tragic they would be comical.
Before I go any further, let me say that there is no debating that properly used student assessments, otherwise known as tests, are a staple in an excellent classroom. Assessments, particularly those implemented in a way that provides immediate feedback, can help drive instruction, because the results can clearly show the teacher what his or her students know and don’t know. That teacher can then use this information to develop follow-up lessons to address those weaknesses … and kids actually learn what they didn’t know before.
There is also no debating that there are too many state-mandated tests, that the results from these tests are constantly used inappropriately, that the results, even if meaningful, are so long in coming back to schools that they lose their worth, and that this inappropriate use is dictated by lawmakers who apparently don’t know the first thing about how students are educated or how to use test data appropriately. Worse, they apparently don’t want to learn given the fact that there is plenty of scientific research that refutes their claim that student test results should be used to evaluate teachers, schools, and districts.
But something interesting has happened over the last few weeks that has given some lawmakers reason to reconsider their position on the testing epidemic, and I suspect it was the growing outcry they were hearing from parents who have finally had enough of their children being treated like human guinea pigs to satisfy political agendas. As a result of this push-back against excessive testing, State Superintendent Richard Ross was charged with researching if, indeed, we are testing students too much. Dr. Ross, after hours and hours of research, discovered what he should have known without doing any research at all; that being that, by golly, we are testing students too much. Nowhere in his report does he even so much as acknowledge the misuse of test data, which should be the crux of the discussion. But, true to their superficial view on education, politicians were focused on testing time, not testing effectiveness. So, instead of trying to engage them in meaningful dialogue, that is exactly what Dr. Ross gave them. God forbid he would try to engage them in meaningful dialogue about teaching and learning.
His stunning discovery resulted in legislative hearings where the folks who have created this mess listened with furrowed brows as superintendents from around the state trekked to Columbus to provide input on just how this dastardly problem could be properly addressed. And, this is where it gets really good.
Instead of focusing on something meaningful like the hours and hours of instructional time lost to testing, the unnecessary stress these tests place upon students, the fact that performance on a single test does not necessarily equate to future success or lack thereof, the narrow view of education these tests provide, and the rampant misuse of the data gathered from them, lawmakers focused on how we can reduce the time we spend assessing students and how much is too much.
In other words, they apparently feel that spending less time doing a bad thing rather than eliminating the bad thing altogether is real progress. As a result of this superficial view of life, they ignore the real issues that need addressed.
Isn’t it amazing that in the eyes of our policy makers that doing something that is wrong less often than we did it before is the blueprint for excellence? Do we need any more proof that they must be removed from all discussions on education if we ever hope to have meaningful conversations about what is best for our children?
Tom Dunn is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.
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