Recently New York City made public teacher evaluations based on student standardized test scores. This proceeded the state of New York's decision to change how educators are evaluated, in part by connecting the standardized test scores of students into final ratings. The following letter was shared with me by a friend whose daughter is in the New York City Public School System. She plans on sending this to officials in the NYC Department of Education to inform them of the potential that more standardized testing will have as a result of recent reform efforts.
Let me start off by saying that I have tried to draft this letter at least four times without the anger and the frustration that I am feeling. Unfortunately, I have come to the realization that it is an impossibility to do so. As my daughter is 12 years old, and already faces the stress and anxiety because of these standardized tests, I feel it necessary, as a mother, to voice my opinion.
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I believe that it is an injustice to all of these children that their level of understanding and competency is judged by a test. As educators and as leaders of our society, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Who gives you the right to give my child and all the other children any undue stress and anxiety? Who gives you the right to tell me that my child will not go forward to the next grade even though she has an 85 to a 90 average? How on earth do you justify stressing out children to the point where they are actually getting themselves sick over the demands that you are placing on them?
As our children grow, they are also supposed to be learning. How can these kids learn anything in school when the way they are being taught is ludicrous? You expect all these children to learn at the same rate and expect them to comprehend on the same level. Every child is different in their own way, so how can you base their level of understanding on one end-of-year test? Not to mention that our children are spending so much time learning things that they will never, ever need to know in life. Do you really think it is appropriate that they spend 2 weeks on learning about rocks and minerals? Do you really think it is fair that they are given one day to learn new math and the next day go on to learn something new again? How do you justify this?
Yes, there are some children out there that are able to keep up with YOUR standards, the majority cannot. In my daughter’s school alone, many kids that were in ARISTA or Honor roll dropped, on the average, at least 4 points. They are now being enrolled in tutoring services or test prep classes which they never needed before.
As a parent, education is obviously one of the things we want our children to have, but just as high on the list of priorities are morals, discipline, and confidence. There are children out there who have some, or none, of these other values. My daughter, in particular, cannot find the confidence in herself because no matter how well she does in school, the end result is passing these standardized tests. A child like mine, who struggles with such high test anxiety, although she is receiving the help for this anxiety, still has trouble passing these tests. She has been in summer school the last three years just because of these tests, but has maintained an 87 average. Does this seem fair? She is a wonderful student, works hard, gets good grades, focuses, and does what needs to be done on a daily basis. But still, the Department of Education feels the need to push her confidence to the lowest level. I guess these other values that make our children well developed and a valuable part of society have no relevance. I am assuming you can find some sort of loophole to validate this fact as well.
There are children out there that are barely passing their classes, but just because they find themselves lucky enough to pass these tests, you, as educators, feel like you are doing your job. Well, my daughter surpasses what needs to be done on a daily basis, as do many other children; the message you are sending is that the school year does not matter, only your assessments and standardized tests do.
I hope you are aware that many other parents feel the way I do, and even your own teachers do not agree with your education process. This is a disgrace, as these are the people teaching our children. Please know that this letter, although it criticizes the education process, is also to help you understand what these children are going through on a daily basis.
With all of this being said, what are your thoughts on standardized testing, it's role in education, impact on students, and the data being used to evaluate educators? Is this the direction that educational reform should be headed in? As a parent of two young children my response is a resounding NO!