This year, I have to subject my eighth-grade students to 6,600 minutes of district-mandated testing. That’s 110 hours. That’s the equivalent of 15 entire seven-hour school days. Eighth grade students in Hartford Public Schools are required to take 25 mandated district and state-wide assessments between late August and early June. Thirteen percent of the entire school year is dedicated to administering these “high stakes tests.”
One could argue that all of this testing leads to data that could drive instruction, that could inform teaching, that could allow for innovative and creative responses to student needs. However, over-testing students waters down the tests’ effectiveness, usefulness, and integrity.
But what are the actual results? Are truancy or disengagement rates down? Are Hartford students getting accepted to colleges at higher rates? Are these tests correlative to students’ success after high school? No. Absolutely not.
However some results are clear. Students are, in large numbers, experiencing test fatigue, anxiety, disengagement, detachment, and apathy towards school. Could it be that by constantly testing students we are actually preventing them from crucial life skills such as problem-solving, collaboration, and experiential learning?
Within the first eight days of school this year, I was asked to give three different district-mandated assessments. Historically, the first eight days of school have been used to learn students’ names, introduce them to classroom expectations and routines, and establish a rapport that should foster learning, security, and engagement. In what ways does immediately assessing students damage a teacher’s ability to create a safe and supportive learning environment for our students?
Yet, teachers are rarely included in the decision process when it comes to education and even less likely to be included in conversations about assessments. Although Hartford allowed teachers to participate in the creation of some of the district- mandated results, they were not consulted in the frequency nor timing of any of the assessments. As a professional, I feel that it undervalues my expertise to be excluded from these decisions. I cannot imagine how disempowering it must feel for the students, the victims of a systems that commits so much time to testing over learning.
Tiffany Moyer-Washington is a Hartford Public School teacher.