One of the biggest problems strangling our schools is the ever-increasing number of standardized tests. In CPS our kids are assessed starting in preschool, face between 8 and 14 in Kindergarten, and may take up to 25 standardized tests annually throughout grade school and into high school. There are four ways this has a negative impact.
1) The tests drive curriculum, and preparing for them squeezes out recess, gym, art, music, collaborative projects, as well as academic subjects that aren't tested such as history.
2) The test results are used for "high stakes" evaluations such as teacher hiring and firing, and school funding or closing. The tests themselves were not designed to do this, so the data derived from these instruments is misused, not scientifically applied, and illegitimate.
3) Tests are increasingly designed to fail students. Recent CCSS-based tests such as the PARCC anticipate a 70% failure rate. This failure rate is used politically and has nothing to do with children learning or improving.
4) Testing costs the US billions of dollars with literally nothing to show for the investment, except for the companies who design the tests and the test prep materials and continually lobby Congress for the creation of new assessments. "Education" is seen as a $500 billion industry by these companies and others looking to get in on the profits.
What can you do? Read up on the work of More Than A Score. Learn about opting out. If families do not allow the schools to derive data from their children's assessments, then the profit-driven data machinery will break down.
Posts relating to this issue:
The roots of the PARCC test (5/4/2015)
5 Ccrappy things about the PARCC (3/6/15)
Opt out and reclaim our schools (3/2/2014)
Opt out of the ISAT already, people (2/27/2014)
High stakes MAP? (2/10/2014)
Untangling the truth about test scores (11/14/2013)
The rotten fruits of incentivized testing (4/12/2013)
Testing, testing! One two three! (4/11/2013)