Recently I received an email from Sen. Richard Blumenthal that detailed his support for his misguided notion that subjecting students to annual testing would reduce the “achievement gap.”
The senator needs an education on the toxic effect that high-stakes testing has had on our schools.
Your email advised that you support annual testing and connected this somehow to closing the “achievement gap” between poor, minority students and their more affluent peers. There is no research to support this claim, in fact, the achievement gap amongst all groups and subgroups in our schools has been shrinking for some time according to results gathered by the only standardized test that has been studied for its validity, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Gains were greater before No Child Left Behind (NCLB) instilled high stakes testing and punitive measures for schools not meeting arbitrary goals of 100 percent proficiency in language arts and math.
Furthermore, your response indicates a misguided notion of the usefulness of annual testing. Students take these tests online between March and May, yet Pearson, the huge multinational conglomerate that has a stranglehold on the testing industry, does not release results until months later.
It is basically useless information, unlike the daily assessment that I conduct in my classroom. Subjecting students to this nonsense at the expense of learning, or being enriched in the arts, music and physical education, is the antithesis of what education means to Americans.
We are the only Western nation that adheres to this invalid annual testing, and it’s time to end. There are a plethora of ways we can measure student progress and teacher performance, and a single standardized test is not one of them. Data suggest that using such information to assess students or evaluate teachers is akin to voodoo science.
Let me make you aware of what holds back many of my students at KT Murphy in Stamford and others like them. In this country, we have many socioeconmic issues that get in the way of the development of our children. Many students in urban areas like mine live in unsafe communities, are homeless, have dysfunctional families, as well as other factors such as poverty, which now accounts for 51 percent of all public school students (at my school, the rate is 70 percent).
We are the richest nation in the world, yet we lead the way in children living at or below the poverty level, which is morally repugnant.
To see the great work my fellow teachers, staff, and administrators do on a daily basis despite lacking full and available resources, I invite the senator to visit my school. After the visit, he can then go about 1.5 miles to an affluent elementary school and see the differences for himself.
That school certainly isn’t cutting back on programs that enrich our kids, and likely, that school receives more funding from the federal, state, and local level than does my needy school.
That’s part of the problem as well, equity in funding in education. Sen. Blumenthal is sadly mistaken if he believes a test will change any of these conditions or make a positive difference in the lives of my kids.
Come and visit my school so you can gain the perspective and reality you need that you cannot get in the hallowed halls of Congress.
Adam Silver of Norwalk is a special education teacher at KT Murphy School in Stamford.