“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Testing has become an issue in many school districts because of the amount of time spent on actual testing and conclusions made based on testing.
“School administrators spend countless hours preparing tests, calculating numbers, and compiling tables to track academic progress of students and to hold teachers accountable…teachers drill, cram and coach their students, telling them to love knowledge for its own sake while dutifully recording marks and percentages for report cards and posterity.”
This is a description of how testing currently is being carried out in some schools. Yet, these testing practices are how schools in the late 1800’s embarked on the widespread use of written examinations as described by William Reese in his book, Testing Wars in the Public Schools.
Critics contend that American students are over-tested. A recent study of two midsize school districts’ assessment plans and testing calendars found that students in heavily tested grades spent 20 to 50 hours each year completing tests and students in high-stakes testing are involved in test preparation for 60 to 110 hours annually.
In our school district, we are reviewing our use of assessments to determine if the results are useful in measuring student growth, and aid teachers in developing well-informed lessons to meet the needs of our students. Online assessments provide quick feedback so instructional adjustments can be made promptly to improve student learning. More use of online assessments is being considered to replace some existing assessments.
New State Assessments
In 2010, Illinois began implementing the new Illinois learning standards alignment to the English language arts and math common core state standards. Beginning in the coming school year, the state will launch new assessments linked to these common core standards. The new assessments will measure how well students are mastering the new standards and ultimately, how ready they are for college and further career/technical education. State educators indicate that new common core standards are more rigorous and provide a clearer focus than previous Illinois learning standards.
End-of-year summative assessments will be administered by the state to assess student performance against a common set of standards. State officials point out that the new summative assessments will go beyond measuring students’ abilities to memorize facts as the current state assessments do by focusing on critical thinking and knowledge application skills.
The state also is participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers (PARCC) which will replace the Illinois Standards Achievement Testing (ISAT) for students in grades 3-8. This spring selected students throughout the state have been requested to take field tests to determine which test items are best. It is an opportunity to ensure that students can use the schools’ computers to take the tests and to identify any issues for those taking the paper and pencil versions of the new tests. Some of our third grade and seventh grade students will be participating in the field tests.
To view more information about PARCC along with a video provided by the state, access our Benjamin District 25 website at www.bendist25.org.
Full Day Kindergarten For All Students
Next year full day kindergarten will be expanded from half of the students attending to all students enrolled in the full day program. The results from the full day program have been very positive regarding students growing significantly academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. Each child now will be able to benefit from the all day program!
Teacher Appreciation Week
Finally, you are invited to help us celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, May 5-9, to highlight our talented and dedicated educators. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those educators who have positively influenced our lives!
Philip M. Ehrhardt, Ed.D.