The schools of our state are currently in the middle of “Washington State Testing Season.”
The story I am telling is one local story but I’m positive this is happening all across our state, and because of this I wish to bring attention to the issue of standardized testing in my local school district that I feel is not in the best interest of my students and also fails to respect our very own highly qualified educators.
I am the physical education teacher at Picnic Point Elementary and have worked for the Mukilteo School District for more than 20 years. I am heavily involved in the Mukilteo Education Association and the National Education Association as an advocate for my own and all students. I am a believer in educating the “whole child” which includes all of the core subject areas as well as music, the arts, and of course physical education.
The issue I am raising is centered around a former student of mine who attends Harbour Pointe Middle School. This student is currently in honors classes and is averaging an “A” grade. The parents of this student do not believe standardized testing is a positive or valuable instruction tool for their child. These parents chose to refuse the test for their child during the fifth-grade year. This year they contemplated again refusing the test and opted their child out of Smarter Balanced Assessment testing, but due to the risks presented by district administration they felt they could not jeopardize their child’s future. Essentially, if you attempt to opt your child out of these standardized tests the district will threaten you with consequences against your child. I am not against assessments and neither are these parents. Assessment with timely feedback and follow up instruction by the teacher is the premier method of instruction.
These Smarter Balanced Assessments are the tests promoted by the Common Core which is funded by Bill Gates and his foundation, the Pearson Corp., and others. These tests take an extraordinary amount of time out of a students learning day and year and do not give valid or immediate relevant feedback to the student. The feedback they do give is a score. They do not tell the student what error they made. These scores are assessed by people, some of whom have been hired off Craigslist ads. The feedback is given after the student has progressed to their next grade level, thus giving no feedback to their current teacher to help the student improve. They are also incredibly expensive for our schools and state to conduct.
The core of this issue is the administrators at Harbour Pointe Middle School supported by the administration of my district, have informed the parents of this student that their child could not continue in the honors program because they refused the test. Thus, they chose to allow the district to test their child. The threat of the school limiting the instruction their child should receive was too much for the parents to risk. This is plain and simple bullying, an act that I thought our district was truly against!
The reason given was that the criteria for being admitted to honors classes is the score received on the test. A score that will not be received until next fall. The grade a student receives in a class subject area or a teacher’s recommendation have no influence. This is wrong. This is disrespectful to the efforts of a good student. This is disrespectful to the profession of teaching. This does nothing to help students become more proficient. This is infuriating.
I write this letter because I hope others will see the importance that our schools should value the daily instruction a student receives and the efforts they put out. Our schools should value and respect the efforts and the opinions of its educators.
I hope you will write, call, email and communicate with your school administration and your school board that these tests should be ended and that the grades a student earns and the intelligence a student displays should be the criteria for which they are placed in their academic program.
Please join me and fight to promote good quality, well balanced public education in our local schools.
Philip M. Falk is a parent and teacher at Picnic Point Elementary in Mukilteo.