Thursday, October 31, 2013

School Board Speaks Out on High Stakes Testing

An overreliance on standardized, high stakes testing can strangle our schools. Change the system to include more balanced assessment. That’s the message our School Board sent the General Assembly of Virginia via a resolution it passed unanimously earlier this week.

The resolution makes several key points:
·         there is little research verifying Virginia’s use of criterion-referenced test results as measures of the growth of student achievement or staff performance;

·         we value deep, meaningful learning, as opposed to the superficial level of learning that results from an over-emphasis on that which can be easily tested by standardized tests;

·         focusing only on test prep steals the joy of learning and teaching from students and educators; and

·         accountability is important, but an accountability system based primarily on high stakes, standardized testing will not prepare our students for the future.

While calling on the Virginia General Assembly to improve the accountability system, the School Board recognizes that we are not powerless. The Board emphasized that even in an era of high stakes testing, we need to stick with the instructional approaches that we know effectively promote student engagement and achievement. The Board called on staff members

to help students master the content and skills of the curriculum by continuing to promote the joy of teaching and learning with a focus on deep, meaningful, transformative learning, rather than an over-emphasis on just covering content that can be easily assessed by standardized tests.

It is hard work to focus on deep, meaningful learning that helps students master the content and skills of the curriculum, including that which is assessed by state exams. But at least it is a little easier when you work in a division with a School Board, other teachers, principals and a superintendent who do not expect you to focus exclusively on boring memorization of facts to enhance test performance.

Kudos to our School Board for sticking up for deep, meaningful learning.

Related Links:
The Joy of Teaching and Learning

The resolution adopted by the School Board was adapted from a template provided by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and echoes similar statements from other School Boards and professional associations in the United States.