State-mandated testing of children at every elementary grade level in five years had parents wondering last night how they can undo a growing emphasis on student performance and evaluation at early grade levels.
Jenai Hicklin told a panel at the University of Toledo testing has become too pervasive. Her son is confronting sixth-grade proficiency tests this year required by Ohio law, and she dreads those days, though he is an honor roll student at Old Orchard School and seems to take them in stride.
“He doesn't know I am as scared as I am,” said Ms. Hicklin. “When you sit in a classroom and see the teachers teaching to the test, you see [students] miss all of the foundational schools of education.”
At a forum assembled by the Old Orchard Parent-Teacher Association in the Driscoll Center, residents heard details of an expanded array of state-ordered achievement and diagnostic testing that all elementary students will face.
“What can we do to get them out of the schools?” asked Amjad Doumani, an Old Orchard area resident. “Dentists are getting the pop cans out of schools,” but derailing the new testing plans is going to be more difficult, he said.
Proficiency tests given to fourth and sixth graders are to be phased out in the next few years. In their place, all students at every level from kindergarten through eighth grade will be tested annually, either by diagnostic tests or a combination of diagnostic and achievement tests beginning in 2006-2007. The changes are the result of legislation signed into law in June by Gov. Bob Taft.
Testing a kindergarten pupil's understanding of math, writing, and reading, as the diagnostic tests will do beginning next year, seems way too early, Peggy Daly-Masternak, an area resident said.
“Mastery in kindergarten, I thought, meant playing and smiling,” she said. Business interests have brought a testing mania to education at the expense of learning simply for the sake of learning. “The corporation is the one that want corn flakes, car parts, and wants children ready to put in the [work]place,” she said.
Dr. Carter Wilson, one of the panelists and an associate professor of political science at UT, said organizing parent-teacher groups to oppose the testing and contacting legislators are measures people can take to reverse the testing. Evidence shows a strong correlation between low test scores and low income of the families whose students score poorly, Dr. Wilson said.
Mitch Balonek, another panelist and teacher at Scott High School, said opposition to proficiency testing is growing, and parents who oppose it should become active. “This issue is not a done deal,” he said. “It is only a done deal if we let it be a done deal.”