Educators push back on Illinois testing requirements |
SPRINGFIELD — Teachers and other education professionals are urging the Illinois State Board of Education to reduce the time students spend each year on standardized tests and adopt a new testing system that produces more useful information to help teachers improve their teaching.
“One thing we are saying and our members are saying is that we have a testing regime that has gone too far and is not helping children learn,” said the president of the Teachers’ Federation of the Illinois, Dan Montgomery, during a virtual press conference Friday.
Under federal and state law, all students in grades 3 through 8 are tested annually in English and math. They are also tested in science in grades 5, 8 and 11. In Illinois, these tests are known as the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, or IAR, and are taken by students in the spring.
Nationwide testing mandates are the product of the 2002 federal law known as the No Child Left Behind Act, which uses them to hold teachers, schools, and districts accountable for meeting educational standards in the country. ‘State.
Recently, however, the State Board of Education considered revising its testing system and at one point proposed replacing the single year-end test with three smaller tests to be administered in the fall, at the end of the year. winter and spring. The plan also would have given districts the ability to test children in kindergarten through 2nd grade.
Amid backlash from teachers’ unions and others, however, the ISBE walked away from that plan last year and instead commissioned a survey from the National Assessment Center to get feedback from teachers, administrators, parents, students and others on ways to improve the state’s testing system. .
“We don’t just want to reduce the length of the end-of-year test, we want to reduce the length of the test period,” said Monique Redeaux-Smith, director of union professional issues at the IFT.
The results of this survey were presented to the council on April 20. Among the key findings, many people have found that the current testing system does not provide much educationally useful information because the tests are administered in the spring and the results are not released until next fall after that students will have already reached another year.
Many respondents also said that too much time was spent on test preparation and administration, to the detriment of classroom instruction.
Many interviewees also suggested that the state could provide more resources to help local districts administer intermediate tests at different times of the year — tests that would be completely separate from the responsibility tests given in the spring — to help teachers adapt their teaching to their students. immediate needs.
Finally, the report recommended that the ISBE take its time and act deliberately before making major changes to the test system.
“There is broad consensus on the need to improve state assessment, but less consensus on the nature of the improvement,” the report said. “The ISBE can play a pivotal role in providing leadership, building trust and developing plans that balance progress with maintaining the necessary quality.”
The push for standardized testing as a way to hold schools accountable grew out of a movement that began decades earlier known as outcome-based education – the idea that schools should be graded on the basis of on the amount of students learned rather than on the resources that go into them.
This movement received a strong impetus under the Reagan administration with the publication of a 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, which painted a highly critical picture of the failures of American schools, calling the entire education system “poor”. public education and warning that he was rapidly being overtaken by those of other nations.
But the emphasis on testing has long been met with resistance from many within education, particularly teachers’ unions who have complained that it is unfair – especially for minority and low-income students. income who are more likely to attend underfunded schools – and that it hurts classroom teaching.
“It’s a racist relic of the past,” Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, said at the press conference. “Assessments have been used to keep groups out of institutions, and we know that the value, the validity in our education system of using these assessments is very questionable.”
Paul Zavitkovsky, a former teacher and principal who now works at the Center for Urban Education Leadership, said there are test systems available that would produce more useful information for teachers, but many of them don’t report the results. in a significative way.
“It seems like the job of teaching is to teach more soft skills faster and more effectively,” he said. “And that ends up reinforcing exactly the kind of teaching and learning that creates a lot of the opportunity gaps that we actually see there.”