There are too many assessment tests

October 1, 2018

Summative evaluations for teachers are out, and as usual the propaganda machine is up and running. In the last year or so, the Public Education Department has launched its Teach Plus and Teach Summit to attempt a counter-narrative to what people have been feeling, experiencing and seeing with their own eyes.

I have a few thoughts.

• The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers lost another state (Maryland). That makes New Mexico only one of four nationwide, including D.C., that use it. There were originally 24. Tell me, again, why we think this is a good test and an accurate measure of our students’ knowledge? What do those states that dropped it know that we don’t?

• The PED claims that it has made changes due to “listening to teachers.” Quite to the contrary, take a look at the timing of its changes. Last year, as it dropped the test score percentage from 50 percent to 35 percent, depositions for the union’s lawsuit against the teacher evaluation system were underway. It then tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. It failed. It changed the attendance portion just as a lawsuit was pending there, too. These people don’t make decisions based on listening to educators. They do it to try and convince a judge.

• The PED has tried repeatedly to lift the injunction against test scores. It failed every time. It has tried to get the union lawsuit dismissed and failed every time. If the union didn’t have a case, it would’ve lost a long time ago. Nationwide, the value-added model is being struck down in the courts as “arbitrary and capricious.” It is not objective. It is not equitable. It is not transparent. And PED knows it.

• There are thousands of errors in teacher evaluations every year. They don’t get corrected. The court injunction against the use of test scores has saved more than 3,000 teachers from losing licenses or being denied renewal, based on test data riddled with errors. And they keep piling up.

I will say it over and over again. We are not opposed to accountability. We are not opposed to assessment to measure student progress. What we oppose is to use assessment data — one measure in time — as an indication of teacher effectiveness. What do we tell our students and parents when we get their scores back? We tell them that is a snapshot in time. It’s not who they are. Then why do we insist on using that snapshot to determine a teacher’s worth? I have witnessed students rushing through assessments — especially the end-of-course assessment I have to give at the end of the year. The results are not good, and it reflects on the teachers’ evaluation.

It makes me absolutely sick to watch “Rock the Test” assemblies that take place every year. It makes me sick to watch educators and administrators review test-taking strategies with their children. It makes me sick to see schools reward children for showing up every day to take the test. It makes me sick to watch a school computer lab shut down from April to the end of May to administer tests. And it breaks my heart to watch the students’ faces when I tell them that after PARCC, they have to take one more test.

This is not education. This is not what’s right for kids. That is why we fight against it, and why we will continue to.

James Macklin is an educator in Albuquerque.

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