This is the first year that I had to administer these district-created “assessments” to my students. Last year, I had listened to a very competent English teacher express her concerns and worry about if she had done a “good enough” job of teaching her kids and stress about how they would score on the interim. She was devastated when even her advanced students scored poorly. The lesson I took away from that was to never waste my time or energy worrying about the interims. But in the big picture, her experience really encapsulates the negative impacts of high-stake testing on teacher and student morale, and that prepping for a Common Core test (that was NEVER scientifically validated before being experimentally unleashed on our kids) has now become the underlying driving force in our classrooms.
At the state level, I and other teachers are trying to get CTA to push back on the over-emphasis on testing. This spring, CTA passed my New Business Item (NBI) that CTA post information on their website about parental rights to opt their children out of testing (Education Code section 60615), and educator rights in speaking with parents about their legal right to opt out their children (Section 852 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations). I followed that up with an anti-high-stakes testing NBI but unfortunately had the frustrating experience of watching it fail by a slim margin at CTA State Council this October. (On the plus side, many delegates said that they will vote in favor of a similar resolution when it contains more specific “action” for CTA to take.) While disappointing, I realized that I could continue the conversation in our local and in what better way than to start pushing back on the time and soul-sucking interims. So I wrote the following resolution, solicited edits and suggestions from other B-Fasters, added the topic to our union agenda, and shared it with my fellow educators. We are happy to say that SDEA passed it unanimously at the November Rep Council and it will be presented during the January 26th school board meeting.
SDEA Resolution Against High-Stakes Interim Testing
Whereas San Diego Education Association (SDEA) previously passed a Resolution Against High Stakes Testing.
Whereas the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Board unanimously passed a resolution on February 10, 2015, that calls on the U.S. Congress and Obama Administration to “eliminate the federally-mandated, annual testing requirement in each of Grades 3 through 9, and at least once in Grades 9 through 12; promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability; and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators”; and
Whereas, Superintendent Cindy Marten sent a letter home to parents in April 2015 before the SBAC was administered saying, “Although this assessment is required, it is not something we necessarily believe is the most meaningful way to understand your child’s progress”; and
Whereas no noticeable change in the emphasis placed on high-stakes testing or the preparation for it has resulted from either the School Board’s resolution or Superintendent’s statement; and
Whereas SDUSD has created and required teachers to administer interim assessments that attempt to simulate the SBAC; and
Whereas SDUSD collects and stores all students’ interim test scores in the same database as the scores of all federally or state mandated tests; and
Whereas SDUSD analyzes interim test scores and makes policy decisions based on student performance on the interim assessments; and
Whereas some of the text selections used in the literacy interim assessments are culturally insensitive and perpetuate gender stereotypes; and
Whereas the literacy interim assessments contain poorly written questions and typos; and
Whereas some schools have replaced regular curricular instruction with test prep lessons and practice in order to improve their school’s scores on the interim assessments; and
Whereas the interim assessments do not always align with curriculum as teachers are not required to follow a scripted curriculum in lock-step; and
Whereas the interim assessments are developmentally inappropriate for and psychologically damaging to some students; and
Whereas most teachers do not use the results of the interim assessment to inform their instruction; and
Whereas administering the interim assessments interrupts the flow of curriculum and takes valuable class time away from instruction;
Be it resolved that SDEA call on SDUSD to recognize that the students’ classroom teacher is the educational expert best suited to design assessments for their students; and
Be it further resolved that SDEA call on SDUSD to live up to its previous public statements and resolutions against high-stakes testing and the over-testing of our students by making the interim assessments optional; and
Be it further resolved that SDEA call on SDUSD to direct all principals to end test prep in advance of any interim assessments given to students; and
Be it further resolved that SDEA call on SDUSD to not use interim assessment scores to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators, principals and schools;
And be it finally resolved that should the SDEA Representative Assembly pass this resolution, a copy of this resolution will be sent to the SDUSD School Board, the SDUSD Superintendent and SDEA members, and posted on the SDEA website.