Thursday, December 11, 2014

What are We Doing to Our Kids? Part II

Earlier, I published a blog that shared my concerns regarding the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) titled "What are We Doing to Our Kids?". Since then, I've had the opportunity to delve deeper into the requirements to administer the SBA and I believe even more strongly that we are headed down the wrong path if we think that these assessments will measure whether our students will ultimately be successful in life.

My major concern is that these assessments are not the way students should be demonstrating their learning.  Young children learn by making sense of information, by asking questions, exploring and discovering their own answers by using available resources. They learn collaboratively by working with others and building on their strengths as well as addressing any challenges to their learning. Children learn by making mistakes, by trying their ideas and then working to make improvements. Expecting students as young as eight years old to sit for long periods of time to complete an extended assignment on a topic that may have little relevance and no real meaning for that child is a recipe for failure. Children are more than test scores.  Those test scores do not define who the child is, what they are good at, and why we value them as important members of our school and classroom community.

Another major concern for me is the amount of resources it will take to administer the Smarter Balanced Assessments. I question the amount of money being spent on developing, implementing, and scoring these assessments  I question the value to the school or the teacher when results for students will not be available until long after the year is over. I question the amount of time being spent on preparing for the test and on taking the test, time that could and should be spent on student-centered, active learning.  I worry that technology issues will impact the entire school when testing becomes the priority and all other computer activities come to a halt during Smarter Balanced Assessment administration. This is a real concern for our school where we use technology at all grade levels to collaborate, communicate, think critically, create, and connect with others globally.

Most concerning to me, though, is the negative impact on our students and the unnecessary stress we place on them. Is there a test for students who may be gifted in art or music? What about a student who has great interpersonal skills, who has advanced physical motor skills, or who may have creative out-of-the-box ideas but struggles with reading or writing? A test score does not define a student, and our responsibility as educators is to guide and support students and to expose them to many different activities so they can find what they are passionate about.

An article by Diane Ravitch, "The Myth of Chinese Super Schools" is a must-read for everyone. The article is based on Dr. Yong Zhao's book, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon:  Why China Has the Best (and the Worst) Education System in the World.  Dr. Zhao dreams of a world where students are encouraged to be "confident, curious, and creative." As Diane Ravitch states in her article, "Until we break free of standardized testing, this ideal will remain out of reach."

It is time for us to speak up if we are concerned.

Students are learning to code using available computers and devices at the school.  These activities could be halted for several months while 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders take the Smarter Balanced Assessments on-line.

Activities like art, music, physical education, dance, and drama are as important to children's development as reading, writing, and math.  Yet schools are eliminating these programs and focusing primarily on language arts and math because they are measured on tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessments. 

@Diane Ravitch


  1. Thank you for so succinctly stating what many of us know in our hearts to be true!

  2. Perfectly stated. Thank you for being an advocate for every child.