The Impact of High Stakes Tests… Presentation to WA State School Board

January 13, 2016

TO: The Washington State School Board

FROM: Raschelle Holland, Educator and Parent

RE: Two Minute Presentation: The Impact High Stakes Testing is Having upon Our Children and Schools

Good Afternoon Washington State School Board Directors,

I’m Raschelle Holland, a K-6 Math Specialist/Instructional Coach from Spokane working in the highest poverty school in the district. We have the largest homeless population and one of the highest ELL populations. I’m a 26 year, accomplished, award winning, and National Board Certified Teacher.

I also have an 8 year old child of my own. I speak for him as well as for all the children who don’t have a voice.

Vigor Trumps Rigor

The definition of “rigor” the Superintendent of this ESD gave this morning was enlightening. Let me add the following… VIGOR TRUMPS RIGOR. When I was a teacher in my own self-contained classroom it was filled with many of the suggestions made this morning around Career Readiness. My students were engaged with hands-on learning, out in the community, and experiencing many learning expeditions. These were the days when teacher creativity was honored and I was given the flexibility, trust, and autonomy to make learning come alive, and the core of my instruction was based on the love of life-long learning.

Then NCLB hit in 2001 and slowly, but surely, I have watched the unraveling of teacher’s abilities and freedoms slowly erode to “academic rigorous” curriculums lock stepping educators into scripted and dry curricular adopted materials.

Young Children Are Being Filtered Based on a Single Score on a Single Test

Discrimination 2The high stakes nature and discrimination of the current tests absolutely begins early. In Spokane Public Schools, they sent out information to teachers that any 4th or 5th grader (9, 10, & 11 year olds) who scored a level 3 or 4 on the Mathematics portion of the SBA would be eligible to participate and have access to a new computerized advanced math program. As I reviewed the elementary school data, the affluent schools will have near 80% of their students “qualify”, whereas in my high poverty school, only 25% will “qualify”.

Furthermore, the school district produced a video and posted it on the SPS Weekly News. Every single student featured is Caucasian and from the same affluent school ranked an “A” by the state according to their incredible test scores.  My school was given an “F” ranking.  I’d sure like to send the gifted teaching staff in my school to the affluent school to teach for one year.  Wonder what the test scores would show?

Video Link Here: Accelerated Math Program Lets Students Stretch

This screams discrimination. And… The opportunity “achievement” gap widens.

Note: One young man on the video shared how a computer was bought so he could use the program more at home. More valuable hours… valuable hours the students in my school do not have access to. 

No home internet access + No home computer = No Accelerated Math Extra Hours

Discrimination 1Children are being filtered at 9 and 10 years old based on one score from a single test. Research shows once a child is tracked, they are typically stuck within that track forever. (See attached from OSPI: Strengthening Student Outcomes, Technical Report on Best Practices and Strategies for Mathematics)

The test itself and the information received from the test is not usable at the classroom level. More and more studies are coming out regarding the lack of validity and reliability of the test. Every legislator, school board member, superintendent, and district administrator must be willing to dig and read these findings.

Study #1: The Common Core Mathematics Tests are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used

Note: This document breaks down many items and shows specifically why the test does not measure a student’s abilities in mathematics.

 Study #2: Using computers widens the achievement gap in writing, a federal study finds

Withdraw From this Flawed Test

Many states have or are in the process of withdrawing from either the SBAC or PARCC. I’ve been through the WASL, MSP, and now the SBAC. Of all of them, this test is the most time consuming and is taking days away from instruction. Young children (8, 9, & 10) are on the computers from 9 – 3 on test days… children… whose hands barely span the keyboard. The ELA Performance Task took many children 2 – 3 days to complete.

I will end on this…

As a Data/Math Coach, I have the “heart ache” of proctoring many tests and…

I. See. It. All.

Discrimination 6A 9 year old with big brown eyes and the most beautiful, smooth chocolate skin, an African Refuge with limited English, enters the computer lab. She looks up at me and says in her endearing accent, “Another Test? Another Test?”

Oh. My. Heart.

She stared at her screen most of the day. What else could she have been doing? Um… hmmm… A hands-on enriching project perhaps? What are we sacrificing in the name of “accountability”?

I am protecting my own son from all of this, which is my parental right. I will continue to opt him out and refuse to allow the system to categorize or track him based on a score on a single test. I wish I could protect other children and shield them from The Testing Abuse.

I seriously question the ethics and morality of what we are doing to children.

C H I L D R E N.

I hope you will take the time to look within and question too.

Passionately Submitted,

Raz on Fire


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