MNPS school board to consider taking on high-stakes testing

Friday, August 9, 2013 at 4:59pm

A former teacher serving on the Metro school board is taking aim at the number of standardized tests students are taking each year.

Board member Jill Speering, a retired teacher of 35 years, plans to pitch a resolution at next week’s school board meeting putting pressure on the district and the state to curb the number of tests students need to take, alleging they place “undue stress” on students and are “often unreliable” for measuring student and teacher effectiveness.

“Imposing relentless test preparation and boring memorization of facts to ‘enhance’ test performance is doing little more than stealing the love of learning from our students and discouraging creativity,” read the resolution.

While the document looks to glean information from district officials on how many hours students spend the in the classroom preparing for tests, the measure also would put the state on the spot. The measure would demand the governor and legislature rethink the tests and “develop a system based on multiple forms of assessments that accurately reflect a wide range of acquisition of student knowledge.”

Speering’s resolution also seeks to “abolish” the “high stakes” standardized tests for kindergarteners through second graders and asks the district to tally up the number of standardized tests and hours students spend in the classroom preparing for them.

Earlier in the week, House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters teachers are sharing concerns with her about the volume of testing in schools, but said the exams are the center point to education reforms implemented across the state and worth keeping.

“That’s worth us looking into what current contracts do we have for testing, how much is it costing the state, how often are these children tested every school year. But keep in mind, data is so critical for the reform that’s needed in education,” she said.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has said he is a supporter of the level of standardized testing the state is doing because it drives improvement.

“We at the state level feel like we need to measure results and we need to know how we’re doing. There’s no way to know what areas you need to improve in if you aren’t measuring something,” Huffman told reporters last month.

“I think we can’t live in a world where we pretend that everybody is doing OK, so it’s necessary to measure and see whether we’re making progress, what are the things we do well, what are the things we have to do better. If you don’t measure, you don’t really have a sense of how you’re doing,” he said.

The school board is expected to vote on the resolution at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 1

4 Comments on this post:

By: MemphisTigers07 on 8/10/13 at 4:12

Wait, wait. You're asking someone who has actually held a job as a teacher to help make policies about education??? Interesting.

By: govskeptic on 8/12/13 at 11:17

Educators or former ones on School Boards may sound like perfect fit. Actually
more often than not it's a very irregular one. Board members need a balance of
many different factors, parties, experiences, and measurements of weight. Teachers
or Administrators are keyed in on too few of the elements and feel strongly they
have all the perfect solutions. If one thinks the system is near perfect already, it's
hard to see where or what improvement is needed.

By: bfra on 8/13/13 at 1:40

Who has said or indicated that the system is near perfect already? If anything, I have only seen the opposite

By: hvillenutcase on 8/13/13 at 4:16

Educators on the board is a very good idea, for a few simple reasons. One is the fact they have been in the classroom teaching our children and know what it takes to actually teach a child. They also get a first hand experience at the stress the students feel when it comes to the standardized test for which there is no evidence to support the claim that they improve education. Two the teachers hold masters degrees in education at a minimum in the state of Tennessee. A new teacher is allowed one year to complete their master degree while teaching in some cases. So lets do the math, 4 years to get a bachelors in the subject they wish to teach. Another year to finish their masters. That is five years just to get the degree and the knowledge to teach the children. Now let's add up the years teaching. In this case it is 35 years in the class room. So we now have 5 years education minimum plus 35 years of experience learning what does and does not work, so 40 years of dealing with education in the case Ms. Speering. While we have people like Mr. Huffman listening to she "Educationalist" and the typical we need data propaganda they have been using for years. Finally lets look at the bigger picture of what the education system is putting out these days. We have kids that do not have the ability to critically think. We have kids that can not do simple math without a calculator or using their fingers. We have kids that can't even fill out a application, much less write a resume. If you want to educate our children it starts with getting the politicians off the school boards and out of the education field. It requires letting the teachers do their jobs instead of telling them how to do their jobs. Like most professions all it requires is to tell the teacher what we would like taught then getting out of the way. This is something politicians have problems doing and something we as parents need to start yelling about to the politicians. And govskeptic, I would much rather trust a teacher that has spent years in the class room then I would some politicians that listens to someone that "studies" education.