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San Diego Cuts Back on Testing to Focus on Children’s Well-Being

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I love San Diego. I wrote a chapter about its experience with top-down reform in the late ’90s and early 2000’s in my book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” Broad and Gates poured money into a plan to remake the district. Eventually, the voters tired of constant disruption and voted out the reformers.

 

Since then, San Diego has made a remarkable recovery and now has a knowledgeable superintendent who is an experienced educator. Better yet, the school board and the teachers work together and have a shared vision.

 

I met Superintendent Cindy Marten when she was a principal. I could see her love for the children and her respect for teachers. For her courage in doing what is best for children, I add her to the honor roll of the blog.

 

The district made this announcement:

 

SAN DIEGO – San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten May 4 announced a significant reduction in the amount of high-stakes standardized testing at local schools. Instead, the former teacher and principal said the district will focus on providing classroom educators with more meaningful measures of student progress in real time. The dramatic changes are expected to improve student well-being and academic outcomes.

 

“The changes we are announcing today will improve the well-being and performance of our students by allowing teachers to teach and students to learn in an environment that values and supports them as individuals,” Marten said. She added the new testing system will help the district continue to provide students with project-based, collaborative learning in classroom settings customized to the needs of a diverse student population.

 

Effective the 2016-17 school year, the specific changes announced today will:

 

• Stop the district-wide collection of interim assessment data and DRA test results, eliminating the need for teachers to waste valuable classroom time entering and uploading data for the central office.

 

• Replace irrelevant district-wide data collection requirements with real time reporting on student progress for teachers to use when and where they need it to support student learning.

 

• Empower teachers to analyze student learning results, and revise lessons to meet individual student needs.

 

• Support local schools as they develop common formative assessment plans, identifying relevant measures that give insight and critical information about how students are developing in literacy and mathematics.

 

“We want to give classroom teachers and neighborhood schools the tools they need to measure the progress of our children in ways that reflect the unique needs of every student. That is how we will keep our commitment to maintain quality schools in every neighborhood,” said Marten.

 

San Diego Unified has a history of national leadership on the issue of student testing under Superintendent Marten, having previously reduced the number of interim assessment tests by 33 percent (from 3 to 2) and increased the age at which testing starts — Second Grade instead of First.

 

“Our experience has shown that student outcomes improve when district officials release their control over assessments and encourage schools to select assessments aligned with a framework for learning, relying on principals, teachers and area superintendents to work in partnership, as they receive the necessary support from the central office,” said Marten.

 

A major factor behind the changes announced today was the recent study showing the overuse of standardized testing is harmful to area students, according to some 90% of San Diego’s teachers. The study was conducted by the San Diego Education Association.

 

“We are pleased San Diego Unified has decided to put the interests of our students first and moved to reduce high-stakes standardized testing, which we know from our research is contrary to students’ well-being,” said Lindsay Burningham, president of the San Diego Education Association. “A true reflection of student achievement and improvement is always done through multiple measures and can never focus on just one test score.”

 

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Contact: Linda Zintz – 619-725-5578 or [email protected]

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